Each May preservation organizations across the country, including Heritage Ohio, celebrate historic preservation with special events and activities. As part of Heritage Ohio’s 25th anniversary, our Preservation Month 2014 Photo Contest will focus on Ohio’s Main Street and Downtown Affiliate communities. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so we want to see why you love Ohio Main Street/Downtown Affiliate communities.
We’ll accept entries through Friday, April 25, choose our finalists, and open the online voting for the winner on May 1. Online voting closes on May 22 and we’ll announce the winning entry on May 23.
Again this year, we’ll feature the winning entry on the cover of Revitalize Ohio, so here’s your chance for Ohio photographic fame. Good luck!
Earlier this week we opened our call for nominations for the Heritage Ohio 2014 Annual Awards. The annual awards recognize the best in the state for historic preservation and downtown revitalization in categories such as Best Public/Private Partnership, Spirit of Main Street, Best Commercial Rehabilitation, and (new this year) Historic Farmstead of the Year! You can learn more about the award categories here.
We will accept award submissions through Friday, May 23, with judging in June. We’ll honor the award winners at a special ceremony during our Annual Conference in Kent on September 23.
So, if you have a project or person that deserves special recognition in the world of historic preservation or downtown revitalization, we invite you to complete and submit a nomination form for judging. Good luck!
The final blog in this series will discuss the analysis of the excavations from the Queensgate II archaeology project. All information and ideas discussed below, unless otherwise specified, was from Thomas Cinadr and Robert Genheimer’s report, “Queensgate II: An Archaeological View of Nineteenth Century Cincinnati.” Nearly 50,000 artifacts were processed and analyzed from the Queensgate II project. Pieces of mortar, brick, plaster, roofing material, and window glass were documented in the field but not saved. During the excavation, three privy shafts, two builder’s trenches, and one cistern were excavated. Due to the extensive amount of soil and artifacts from the cistern, a sampling method was employed. After sorting through these samples, it was determined that most of the artifacts were from a mid-20th century period and therefore not processed. Over 94% of the cultural material was recovered from the privy shafts. As such, the archaeologists focused the remaining discussions on these.
Glass containers and fragments made up over 20% of the artifacts recovered. Glass, particularly glass bottles, is an extremely good tool for providing dates. The way the bottle was manufactured and the company name and location can be used to narrow a date range. Cinadr and Genheimer note that the majority of the bottles were from Cincinnati firms; however there were also a number of embossed bottles from surrounding states as well as London and Paris. There were three bottle types including the blown-in mold, the semi-automatic, and the fully automatic machine made bottles. Machine made were generally found in the upper levels, which provides an earliest date of 1903, when the Owens automatic making machine was invented. Cinadr and Genheimer also noted that nearly all the beer and soda bottles had bottle caps, whereas the food and pharmaceutical bottles had cork stoppers. The following types of bottles were categorized: returnable pharmaceutical bottles, chemical, oil/polish, wine, whiskey, spirit, bitters, beer, ale, medicine, food, dairy bottles, and scroll flasks.
Extensive corrosion was found on the metal objects. Approximately 3,580 nails and nail fragments were recovered, however classification was mostly unsuccessful due to the extensive corrosion. Attempts at cleaning corrosion did not work. Nail fragments make up 15.6% of all the artifacts from the Betts House privy shaft. The other two privies had significantly more nail fragments in the upper levels compared to the levels with fecal material.
Unlike the metal objects, bone was remarkably well preserved. Bone made up 26.7% of all cultural debris, most of which were butchered bone or food remains. Buttons were the most common non-food bone artifact recovered. Twenty-seven of the twenty-eight were 4-hole buttons, 26 were Type 20 (four-hole bone disc with a rounded back). Cinadr and Genheimer explain that it was difficult to distinguish between bone and ivory because the bone was highly polished. Approximately 19 bone/ivory handles were recovered, which belonged to a variety of object including wax seal stamps, umbrella handles, a revolver, and tool handles. Evidence of 16 tooth brushes were found from the three privies. Thirteen bone comb and comb fragments were recovered, which Cinadr and Genheimer compare to lice tombs of today. A number of unidentified modified bone objects were also found. Cinadr and Genheimer point out that the majority of the bone artifacts were uncovered from the lower portions of the privies, particularly among the fecal material.
Fresh and saltwater shells were recovered from the excavations. Shell buttons or button fragments make up 64% of the 220 shell objects. While they varied in size, the majority were Type 22(shell button with a sunken panel and a flat back). Cinadr and Genheimer suggest that the limited number of local bivalve and marine oysters points to shellfish not being a substantial part of 19th century diet in this neighborhood.
These materials accounted for a very small part of the artifact assemblage. Cloth fragments were generally very brittle and fragile. While also brittle, leather was less fragile. Approximately 406 leather and cloth shoe fragments were identified, with an additional 109 leather fragments found. Approximately 612 cloth fragments were found. Cinadr and Genheimer suggest that the clothing fragments found were most likely used for cleaning, as rags. Sixty-five cloth buttons were found all within one level, but all were quite deteriorated. The mystery of Charles Dustin was also discovered in this level. This will be discussed later.
A total of 176 rubber artifacts were recovered, approximately half were vulcanized. Twenty-four rubber combs and comb fragments were found from the three privies. Cinadr and Genheimer explain that the combs mostly intact and therefore were discarded for reasons other than breakage. Other rubber artifacts included bottle closures, record fragments, buttons, a ball, baby bottle nipples, several toy wheels, spherical aspirator fragments, and hydraulic orifice irrigators. An interesting look into the health of the residents at 427 Chestnut Street (the Porter residence for 50 years) was also found with the rubber artifacts. A minimum of 38 rubber fragments were identified as enema apparati, including fourteen tube and tube fragments and 24 soft tubing and bag fragments. Cinadr and Genheimer further explain that during Victorian times, the use of enemas was commonly believed to be a means to cleanse the body of poisonous waste.
Clearly the environment of a privy shaft was not exactly conducive to preservation of paper, however, 73 fragments were recovered. Forty-three percent of this collection included fragments of wallpaper, tar paper, and pressed paper. Another interesting find from the Porter residence privy shaft (427 Chestnut Street) is a group of 31 newspaper fragments. Half of these were located in one level. References are made to World War I events and the clippings were found among celluloid campaign pin backs dating to the same era. Level 13 contained 4 fragments attached to leather backing describing attempts by the US Government to secure and operate an armor plate factory in Massachusetts. Below this, several politically themed fragments point to and 1897 date. The Porter’s privy also held two medicinal envelopes, one of which was legible and gives directions for Dr. Edward’s Blood Tonic and Olive … Tablets. The olive tablet was advertised as a means to ease constipation and the tonic was advertised to strengthen the mind and body.
Numerous artifacts which fit into multiple categories were also found, including fragments of furniture, jewelry, personal items, domestic equipment, and architectural items. A good amount of fragments from lamp globe glass, pressed glass, kerosene chimney glass, and electric light bulb fragments were found. Objects relating to electrical lighting tended to be found in the upper ash levels, which helped narrow depositional dates. A total of 110 glass buttons were recovered, 89 of which came from the Porter privy shaft. The majority of buttons were milk glass, with four holes more common than two. Glass and ceramic marbles were recovered from all privy shafts, with the glass marbles recovered from the upper levels as they were more recent. A wide variety of domestic hardware and furniture was recovered including cabinet handles, doorknobs, brass door keys, a variety of tool fragments, metal buckles, buttons, and grommets, several graphite fragments, and a few school slate tablets.
Ceramics were recovered from the privies at 425 and 427 Chestnut Street, making up 141 and 364 vessels, respectively. A variety of both material and vessel type were found, including tableware, toys, and clay pipes. Unlike the non-ceramic artifacts discussed earlier, it seems that with the exception of a jug and a few cups, vessels were discarded when no longer functional. Because of this, the mean date is significantly earlier than relative non-ceramic artifacts in the deposit. Manufacture marks showed a tendency towards purchasing Staffordshire pottery from England, making up approximately 50% of the ceramics recovered. The most popular type was undecorated ironstone (basic white dishes). Local ceramics were not produced until the 1880s.
Charles Dustin is a man of mystery. He is listed in the City Directory at 427 Chestnut Street as a 36 year old night watchman in 1899 and 1900 while E.A. Ferguson Porter was a traveling salesman. After 1900, the occupants of 427 Chestnut Street are unknown. A number of artifacts identified as part of a Cincinnati Police Uniform were recovered during the excavation, including a circular buckle embossed Cincinnati Police, several metal buttons with the Cincinnati seal and Cincinnati Police on them, a bronze metal attributed to being the son of a Civil War veteran, and a loaded single shot revolver along with numerous unfired bullets and casings. Dustin was identified through a rubber stamp with his name. Further research showed he lived at 427 Chestnut Street until 1902. Research conducted by this team during the 1980s provides the beginnings of a mystery. Coincidentally, the Cincinnati Museum, in collaboration with the Northern Kentucky University’s Public History program, is currently exhibiting “Medicine, Marbles, and Mayhem” which features artifacts from this excavation as well as a very interesting update on research into the mystery of a police uniform in a privy. Check it out here.
While one of the goals of the project was to further the research of class difference in the Queensgate II neighborhood, a lack of mercantile material made this not possible. However, as Cinadr and Genheimer point out, several other observations and conclusions can be made based on the material culture recovered. The activity use of the privies shows use as a toilet facility as well as a place to dump kitchen refuse and a place to discard unwanted items. Looking at the two privies which appeared undisturbed, Cinadr and Genheimer noted a tendency towards dense amounts of 19th century artifacts in the same levels as fecal material, kitchen refuse, and heat altered byproduct. There is a trend towards the upper levels as a place to dump ash, kitchen refuse, and contained 20th century artifacts. They concluded the privies were abandoned as toilet facilities around the turn of the 20th century. Another topic to discuss relates to the health of the residents. The recovery of several 19th century medicinal bottles and enema apparati suggest that the 19th century residents were concerned about their health. Additionally, it was noted that duplicate bottles were found, which could suggest they may have found the medicine to provide relief. A number of tobacco-related objects were also recovered, which suggests it was common.
An analysis of seed samples recovered was performed by Mary Eubanks. Seeds included: grape, blackberry, wheat, sunflower, ragweed, and some oblong orange seeds which were unidentified. An analysis of animal bones was conducted by David Dyer. A sample of the approximately 12,000 bones was made by selecting the level with the highest representation of species. Animal bones from two of the three privies were analyzed. Almost half of the identifiable bones had butcher marks on them, which indicated food use activity. Butchered bone from cattle, swine, and sheep were the three most common. The privy at 425 Chestnut Street also contained unbutchered rat and cat bone, including high amounts of fetal or juvenile cat bones. It was suggested that this points to either the death of a pregnant cat, or frequent disposal of kittens. In addition to the above mentioned food sources, the privy at 427 Chestnut Street showed evidence for rat, goose and a frog being used for food. Non-food animal remains included rat, cat, and domestic dog (which appeared to be from one dog).
The Queensgate II neighborhood became designated as the Betts-Longworth Historic District in 1983, for architectural significance and the significance of archaeological data. While the buildings may have been vacant, there was still a wealth of knowledge below ground. Since the designation, the neighborhood has gone through a revitalization period and occupancy rate has increased.
This blog post is part 2 of 3 telling the story of urban archaeology in a Cincinnati neighborhood. All information is credited to the archaeology report, “Queensgate II: An Archaeological View of Nineteenth Century Cincinnati,” by Thomas Cinadr and Robert Genheimer. The first part of this story left off discussing the process Cinadr and Genheimer used in selecting the lots. Especially when it comes to urban archaeology, it is important to remember site activity occurred not only in the house, but the entire lot. While today we throw meal leftovers and unneeded parts down the disposal or in the garbage can, get our water from the pipes in our house, and use the toilet in the bathroom, prior to the 20th century these were outdoor activities. Excavations to expose these activities and the differences between classes were the main objectives of this investigation. This blog will focus on the history of each lot and the excavation of each feature by Miami Purchase Association. The history of each lot was provided by Stephen Gordon and Elisabeth Tuttle’s 1981 study, “Queensgate II: A Preliminary Historical Site Report.”
425 Chestnut Street
Cyrus Dempsey purchased this lot in 1847, and a house was built by 1849. Cyrus’ wife, Sarah, was a schoolteacher, and following Cyrus’ death Sarah remarried and remained in this house. Her new husband worked his way up from a copyist to a bookkeeper. In 1868, a new middle-class family moved in here and remained until 1900. After this family, a German immigrant family moved into the house and remained there until 1941. Three families called this place home in the span of just over 90 years. After 1941, we see a change towards the working class and a noticeable transient type of tenant; 6 tenants in 26 years. The house stood vacant from 1969 until 1981, and was demolished the following year.
Archaeologists from Miami Purchase Association used a heavy duty pry bar was used to lift the massive concrete slab covering the privy shaft. A layer of 20th century debris was cleared and a brick pad was found. Beneath that was the circular limestone outline of the privy shaft. Much of the upper portions of the privy shaft contained ash and heat altered materials, butchered bone, and 20th century bottles and ceramics. After about 10 feet, there is a change from solely kitchen dumping material to the introduction of a loose brown seed filled matrix (decayed fecal material) intermixed with the kitchen refuse. According to Cinadr and Genheimer, the artifacts suggest that the deposit dates between the 1880s to early 20th century.
Cinadr and Genheimer explain heavier amounts of 19th century glass and ceramics were uncovered in the next level below. Moving through the following three feet, there was still good evidence for kitchen refuse activity in addition to badly corroded metal and some glacial soils. The next horizon (layer of activity change) is confined to Level 14 and has heavy amounts of fecal material as well as architectural materials and kitchen refuse. Towards the end of this level, a gray clay matrix, followed by sand was found, indicating the Wisconsin Outwash and the bottom of the feature. Unlike the other privies studied by Cinadr and Genheimer, the diameter of this perimeter started at 3’8” and decreased with depth, ending at 2’3” at the base.
427 Chestnut Street
Next door stands a three story brick building. Archival research by Gordon and Tuttle (1981) shows that a frame house built sometime between 1848 and 1850 was standing in 1855. The current brick house replaced the frame structure by 1858. James Porter (a house painter) and his wife are first listed at this address in the 1849 city directory. A servant was listed in the 1880 census, but only for that year. James Porter passed away in 1889, and their grandson, E. A. Ferguson (16 years old) moved in with James’ wife, Margaret. He became a clerk and later a traveling salesman for a book company. In 1898, Margaret passed away and a man named Charles Dustin, listed as a night watchman, moved in. The mystery of Charles will play out later, but he is an example of unexpected mysteries uncovered during archaeology. The occupants of the house are unknown from 1901-1909. The next occupants listed began a line of working-class and African American tenants. While some stayed longer than others, there was significant movement in and out of the house by single males, mostly listed as laborers, which could suggest that people went where there was work. By 1981, the house was vacant.
A 13.5’ by 16’ addition once stood at the rear of the house, and is now covered by a concrete pad. Archaeologists removed the pad and found a dinner fork inscribed, “Extra Coin Silver Plate 1902.” Further testing revealed a laid brick pad, underneath which was a circular brick privy. Two large concrete slabs were found at the center of the shaft, indicating it was capped. Below that, excavations began. The way this privy shaft was used can be seen in the depositional patterns. Cinadr and Genheimer highlight three main activities which this privy was used for: dumping place for construction activities, kitchen refuse dumping, and as a toilet facility. The upper levels had horizons of solely kitchen dumping, as marked by butchered bone, shells, and ash from cooking byproduct. They point out the point in the depositional history where it is likely that indoor plumbing was installed. Below that point, kitchen dumping and fecal material are intermixed. The heavier the density of artifacts and the larger the horizon, the longer the privy was used for that function. The other activity found in the depositional history is construction. Using diagnostic artifacts including nails, coins, and bottles, dates can be narrowed for depositional activity.
The cistern, however, presented quite a different story for Miami Purchase Association. Beneath a large, thin concrete pad was an intact brick patio. Soon after beginning excavations, it became clear that this feature was a brick lined beehive cistern. Cinadr nad Genheimer explain that while it wasn’t surprising to find a cistern close to the house, it was somewhat surprising to find two walls extending from it to the north and the west. The wall extended from approximately three feet south to the eastern part of the cistern. After further excavations, it was determined that these walls belonged to the former addition. Due to the massive volume of soil and artifacts uncovered from within the cistern, a sampling method was enacted. Every fifth bucket of soil was screened for the first level, and every 10th bucket was screened after that. Hand trowling insured that whole bottles, bottle bases and tops, large bones, and larger artifacts were collected, while avoiding the substantial amounts of broken glass, and badly corroded metal. The next horizon was full of white ash with few artifacts. After the 4th level was reached, the walls no longer remained stable due to increasing dampness. Based on the dimensions, it was calculated that 3,180 gallons of water could be stored in this cistern.
In order to refine a construction date for the house, a builder’s trench was excavated below the front porch of the structure. Two feet below the surface, two large cut limestone slabs sitting parallel to each other were found. Below them, an intentionally laid brick area forming an arc was exposed. One possibility presented by Cinadr and Genheimer was the possibility that the limestone slabs were originally stairs, and once they became unstable, a wooden porch was constructed. Excavations point to two distinct periods of construction. It appears that Levels 1-4 (the upper 4 feet of the excavation) were considerably disturbed after construction of the house. The second period of construction was that of the house itself. Based on the artifacts identified, the dumping activity was unspecialized. Artifacts included a mix of kitchen refuse, marbles, buttons, a few coins, bottle glass, several ceramics of varying types, and architectural material, all dating to the mid-19th century.
416 Clark Street
This property, more commonly known as the William Betts House, was the beginnings of Queensgate. The brick house was built in 1804, with a brick and frame additions created at separate times but are known to pre-date the neighboring 1878 house, and a metal addition constructed in the 20th century. An early kitchen addition was badly damaged in the 1811 New Madrid Earthquake. The Betts family lived in the house until 1825, with 100 acres of the 111 acre property being split up and going to auction in 1833. It is thought that the privy currently on the property was constructed at this time. The 11 acres which were not sold included the 1804 house, which continued to be lived in by the Betts family until 1849. Dr. Alex Johnston and his family lived in the house during the 1850s and into the 1860s. The house remained part of the mercantile society until the turn of the century, when the occupants would more likely be considered middle class. Unlike the other two houses, the occupants were families who remained in the house for much longer periods. The house was occupied until 1981, when it stood vacant.
Clearing of a feature identified during the survey work revealed a large rectangular limestone lined walled feature which went right up to the foundation of the neighboring property. The privy fill was clearly disturbed for the first four feet. This all became known as Level 1. The privy shaft took a circular shape 4.2 feet in diameter by the next level. Artifact densities are light until the end of Level 3. After this, a large deposit of kitchen refuse (over 300 butchered bones), a variety of bottles, clay pipes, and medicine bottles including a Paine’s Celery Compound bottle were found. Based on diagnostic artifacts, this deposit dates roughly around the turn of the 20th century. A brick stabilization wall divided the privy shaft in half from Levels 4-7, with a portion of a wood beam at the bottom. Ash deposits surrounding the wall and arch fall continue through Level 13. Moderate densities of artifacts including flower pots, lamp glass, rubber combs, flavoring extract bottles, metal, electrical wire, window glass, sewing machine oil, tin cans, celluloid, leather shoes, clay pipes, and a variety of ceramics, medicinal bottles, and butchered bone were found within the ash deposits. Temporally sensitive artifacts place this portion of the privy at mid 1890s. As the excavation progressed, it was noted that fragments from a single artifacts were found in several levels. For example, fragments from a badly shattered brown spongeware teapot were found in Levels 6, but also in Level 14 (8 feet further below). Excavations ceased at after Level 19 due to decreasing stability of the walls and cold temperatures. The southern half of the privy shaft was excavated (unscreened) to 24’6” and then a 5 foot soil core was used to determined if any changes in soil would occur. The same types of artifacts were encountered until the bottom 2” of soil, which contained a dark seed-bearing level (likely fecal matter). Cinadr and Genheimer note that it appears this privy was quickly filled around the turn of the 19th century. The privy shaft was likely not capped until after 1959, as mid-20th century artifacts including a 1959 dog tag were found in the upper levels.
An attempt to locate depositions related to the construction of the house was made with a 3’x6’ unit next to a wall of the original portion of the house. A small assemblage of a mix of 19th and 20th century artifacts were located in the first level, including portions of a Diet 7-up bottle near mid 19th century ceramic shards. The next level below included architectural artifacts, as well fragments from an aqua glass bottle embossed Dr. D. Jayne’s Oleaginous Hair Tonic, whose business began in 1839. A thin gray clay material was noted near the foundation of the house from Level 1 until Level 4, extending out from the house up to 13” and then retreating back to the 3” from the foundation in Level 4. A variety of construction material, early 19th century ceramics, and a fragment of prehistoric chert, along with a small chert projectile point were found in the horizon next to the clay material. The foundation was made of undressed limestone slabs, which stops short of extending to the basement floor. Based on the artifacts uncovered, Cinadr and Genheimer explain that it is likely that this building trench dates to the construction of the original house and was undisturbed after the first level.
The last portion of this story will focus on the analysis of the artifacts and the results from Cinadr and Genheimer’s excavation. Today the William Betts house, at 416 Clark Street, is open as a museum. Learn more about the Betts family history and their house check out The Betts House.
Passing through downtown neighborhoods, many of us will notice the historic houses. Some are still as beautiful as the day they were completed and some are diamonds in the rough. Even driving through the dilapidated areas, I’m sure many of us wonder what the neighborhoods looked like in their prime. While the buildings are beautiful, I have always been attracted to the story behind the building. The story of who lived there, what the children played with, the health concerns of the former tenants, consumerism patterns and the story of the built past can be told through archaeology. Archaeology also can present new, untold stories, as we will see play out in the excavation of one of the privy shafts in the Queensgate II excavation. Since this project has so much detail and so many stories, it was necessary to split it into 3 blog posts.
How the Project Began
The Queensgate II neighborhood of the 19th century was substantially different than the Queensgate II of the late 20th century. The once thriving, diverse, highly populated area, had become a memory. With urban housing projects to the north, a booming business district to the east, and a freeway to the south and west, it is no surprise that by 1968, the population of this area was a mere 1280. The Queensgate II archaeology project was born from Ted Sunderhaus’ observation that despite excessive amounts of “excavations” by looters, and the vast amount of vacant buildings, there were still several areas which could provide the archaeological features necessary for the study of this diverse 19th century neighborhood. The Miami Purchase Association (now known as the Cincinnati Preservation Association) approached the City of Cincinnati with a plan to incorporate the results from an urban archaeological study into the mitigating factors of nearby redevelopment plans. The project was restricted to properties owned by the City of Cincinnati, within a five block area. The year prior, a detailed lot-by-lot history, which shed light on the class diversity, was conducted by Stephen Gordon and Elisabeth Tuttle. The archaeological research would provide additional insight on this topic.
The area known as Queensgate II (now known as the Betts Longworth District) is a 7-block, 117 acre area of Cincinnati bounded by Ezzard Charles Dr., Race Street, 6th Street, and I-75. Streets began being laid out as early as 1815 and a building boom followed the next decade. The city’s population tripled during the 1840s, and a change from frame construction to brick construction followed. Most people in the Queensgate II neighborhood were from New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and were generally prosperous merchants. By 1870, however, a large German influx moved in and the original inhabitants moved away. Tensions between the Jewish population and non-Jewish population were common. In 1918, 55% of Cincinnati’s Jewish population lived in the West End (an area which includes Queensgate II). By 1930, however, only 5% remained. Also noteworthy was the increase in the black population. The 1860 census only listed 80 black people in the Seventh Ward, but by the 1920s, as much as 80% of Cincinnati’s black population lived in the West End. Demolition of Lincoln Park for Union Terminal in the 1930s, construction of the Interstate, and government housing drastically altered the streetscape.
Since Queensgate II provided such a heterogeneous population, it was an ideal setting for the study. Preliminary surveys included looking through the back dirt left behind by looters, which were found to have a representative cross section of the past inhabitants with a wide array of artifacts recovered. Between the data provided from the Gordon and Tuttle report and a reconnaissance survey to identify potential features, along with factoring in economic diversity, potential for an intact feature, and the completeness of the historical record, selections for sites to be excavated was made.
Two lots were chosen, based on the selection criteria. The first held an 1840s frame structure and held an intact privy and cistern. Thorough documented history, including city directories which listed occupation for each resident, for this lot and the neighboring were found. The second location selected was the William Betts house. Similarly, a thorough history, intact privy and cistern were found on the lot. Additionally, it was decided that at least one builder’s trench be excavated to provide additional information.
Heritage Ohio is proud to announce another educational workshop to help individuals and communities understand the tools available for historic buildings. Our next Dollars and Sense Workshop will be held in Steubenville on April 11th. This workshop is located to be central to much of eastern Ohio. To view the agenda click Dollars and Sense of Building Rehabilitation
The Society of Architectural Historians has created an encyclopedia of important properties on their website, called the archipedia. A work in progress, the goal is to have each state’s 100 representative properties compiled by 2015. It is not hard to argue that Ohio has an amazing history, with a rich built environment. Barb Powers has been coordinating a representation of Ohio’s 100 most notable properties. The list is created from input, suggestions, and discussions with professionals in the field. The list is organized chronologically from the Serpent Mound in Adams County, to the Glass Pavilion in Toledo (2006), Ohio’s college campuses, and entries open for Presidential sites or Courthouse entries.
Now that the list has been created, the next step is creating descriptions for the entries. The first 10% of entries are due to SAH at the beginning of April. Those 10 selected have the most information and are those bolded in the list. Contact Barb Powers at email@example.com if you are interested in contributing a particular entry.
Archaeology provides us with a neutral side to history. It gives us a glimpse into an untold or undocumented part of history at a certain location. There are many historic sites in Ohio that are well known for their post-European settlement importance. Many of these sites, in addition, have a rich history prior to European contact. One of these sites is the Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio.
The Rankin House
Reverend John Rankin owned the property from 1828-1865. Until 1863, the family and their neighbors sheltered over 2,000 slaves, sometimes up to 12 people at a time. The question at hand at the beginning of the investigation is, where would that many people hide without anyone noticing? From archival evidence, as well as interviews, we know that what stands today isn’t what stood before. We know that in the 1940s, the Ohio Historical Society [OHS] did extensive renovations to the site. Alterations included the demolition of a brick kitchen, alteration of two barns, the construction of an addition to the east elevation, and demolition of multiple outbuildings and fences. While some of the buildings can be seen from aerial photos around that time, buildings which were demolished before that were still a mystery. One of the mystery buildings, which was a focal point during this investigation, has been referred to as The Rankin Barn. Rev. Rankin’s grandson stated that freedom-seekers were hidden in a cellar under a barn 100 feet west of the house. Decades later, however, he claims that the building used to house fugitive slaves in an ample cellar was located 150 feet northwest of the house.
Pieces of the Puzzle
While it’s something which may seem obvious, let’s remember that during the Rankin-era occupation, trash collection didn’t occur. We can learn a lot about consumerism and daily life patterns through the material culture left behind. Additionally, more can be learned about both those seeking freedom, as well as those helping hide people during the Underground Railroad era. With this in mind, locating and research what was found in the previous kitchen, the cistern, and privy all would contribute greatly to better interpretation of the site.
Knowing the area described where the barn and kitchen could be located seems to beg the question, well, why not just look there? Shovel tests were performed and units were excavated throughout the site. However, due to the extensive remodeling of the site in the 1940s, the data remains inconclusive. The mixture of layers allowed modern day plastic to sit next to historic ceramic pieces. The remodeling also meant bulldozing many structures, so the layout of the buildings is also no longer available, as infill has occurred through much of the site.
Another important outcome from the research at the site came through “ground-truthing”, or the use of equipment like ground penetrating radar to determine whether there are any anomalies in the soil, like larger rocks, a change in soil, or metal. In 2010, a geophysical survey of the site took place. The area most impacted by construction, as well as a focus on the highest and flattest elevations of the site were the areas of focus. Until 1950, a major farm road ran through the site, in a north-west direction. The first area was closest to the house, and known to be most impacted by the site reconstruction. The second area was a curving linear ridge covering approximately 4.5 acres on an east to west sloping slope. The old farm road cut through this area, and a gas pipeline was present. Twenty-seven areas were focused on in this geophysical survey, particularly along the higher portions of the ridge. Far less iron anomalies were found compared to closer to the house, which would indicate less historic-era activity. Yet, there were a number of distinct anomalies, which resemble characteristics of features such as a prehistoric pit. These areas were further investigated; half produced evidence pointing towards prehistoric cultural activity, as indicated by burned earth, charcoal, and dark soil. In conclusion, there appear to be two distinct prehistoric occupations in this area of the site.
While the excavation provided some answers to questions, it also presented an entirely new set of questions and directions to take future research. The location of where Rankin hid freedom seekers, and how that many people would have passed through going unnoticed, are questions which remain unanswered. Having located the privy, cistern, and bottle dump, questions regarding consumer patterns and daily life may be able to be answered with further research. We know that a lot of site disturbance occurred in the 1940s; however there is more to the site than just the Rankin occupation period. With the location of many soil anomalies, areas with burned earth and charcoal, new questions now surface. What was the property used for prior to the Rankin occupation? How long people using the property and how many people were were there? This property continues to be an amazing research and teaching site.
One of my absolute favorite blogs is Preservation in Pink, so I found her post a few weeks back about young preservationists especially interesting. As you may be aware, Heritage Ohio has been active in working to help build a Young Ohio Preservationist movement, from developing a survey to get feedback about how 20-40 year old self-identified preservationists view themselves shaping preservation in Ohio, to holding one-on-one stakeholder interviews, to holding introductory planning meetings in Columbus this past January.
As the PiP author expresses in her blog post, preservationists in leadership positions have done a better job in recent years of actively engaging people under 40 to help shape the preservation movement. Although some bristle at the notion that a “Young Preservationist” appellation is even needed, preferring instead to seamlessly mesh with the rest of the preservation world, the concept of giving young preservationists special status within the preservation world has taken hold. A lot of Old Preservationists (myself included) are excited by the prospect of fresh ideas, and new ways of looking at (and saving) old buildings that young preservationists can bring to the table.
What do you think? Is there a place in the preservation world for groups of a specific age range?
Heritage Ohio is again offering a series of workshops to help individuals and communities understand the historic building rehabilitation process.
We will be offering four workshops during 2014. Participants will have the opportunity to visit with representatives from Ohio Development Services Agency and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. We will have a building owner share their experience in using historic tax credits, and other professionals involved in successful rehabilitation projects.
The next workshops will be:
February 24 in Dayton
April 11 in Steubenville
August 8 in Findlay
October 13 in Portsmouth