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19th Century Boat Found Under New Jersey Home

HIGHLANDS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Workers raising a waterfront home in New Jersey made a nautical discovery: a 44-foot wooden boat from the 19th century.

The 12-foot wide vessel, its rudder fully intact, was found beneath Eileen Scanlon's bungalow on 5th Street in Highlands on Wednesday, the Asbury Park Press reported. The boat likely was used to transport coal and other goods along local waterways, and pieces of coal were found scattered along the floor.

Rumors of the vessel's existence had circulated for years. Scanlon got a peek of what looked like a rudder through the home's crawlspace shortly after buying it in 2010, but she didn't anticipate the size and scope of the boat. It's built from 3-inch-thick wooden plants and is held together with 18-inch iron nails.

"I saw a complete boat," she told CBS2's Steve Langford.

Scanlon temporarily stopped construction under the house and called Russell Card of the Historical Society of Highlands.

"It was beyond amazing,'' said Card, who posted pictures of the vessel on Facebook. "I've heard about it before and the first time I ever saw it was yesterday. I never realized it was so big. I was amazed at the craftsmanship of it.''

Barge 43 ft long.

Posted by Russell E. Card on Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The property was once a dock of sorts and people used to roll boats on wheels to get to and from the water, said Card, who believes someone left the boat and built the home around it.

"The boat was the foundation of the house," general contractor Phil Franco said.

Some had long claimed there was a boat buried under the house. One neighbor's late husband often told the tale to the amusement of his kids and grandkids over the years.

"They said you're crazy dad, you're crazy, but it was there," Barbara Hartsgrove said.

Local historian Walt Cuenther said the boat probably carried seafood in the old days.

"It's probably at least 100-years-old, probably goes back to the middle, late 1800s," he said.

Other suspect a more colorful purpose.

"Highlands was infamous for being a spot for the rum running," Scanlon said.

Scanlon's work has been part of the endless recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

"It's very nice history to see and Sandy didn't take that away," she said.

The boat will be destroyed, but Scanlon plans to place the bow in her garden.

Local residents said that a piece of the property served as a dock when the water reached farther inland about a century ago.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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