Main Street Troy Seeks Executive Director



1. Work Objective

The Troy Main Street Director coordinates activity within a downtown revitalization program which utilizes historic preservation an integral foundation for downtown economic development.
The Director is the principal on-site staff person responsible for coordinating all project activities locally as well as for representing the community regionally and nationally as appropriate.


National Trust Releases 2014 Annual Federal Historic Tax Credit Report

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s publication, “The Federal Historic Tax Credit: Transforming Communities” which focuses on the federal historic tax credit being a catalyst for change, was released today. The report discusses the importance of the federal historic tax credit, and its effectiveness in revitalization of communities. While the Trust provided case studies on success stories in Maryland, Utah, and Georgia (focusing on 2001-2013), they also provided an update on the United States’ success using the federal historic tax credit. In two words, it works!

The case studies provided by the Trust provide a more in-depth look at how the historic tax credit has benefited the state and local economies. In Maryland, for example, it was shown that every $1 million invested in historic preservation tax credit projects, 2,500 tons of demolition debris avoided landfills. The 397 projects have created 19,803 jobs and generated $753,773,100 in household income. In Georgia, every $1million invested in historic preservation added $558,000 to state tax revenues and creates 16.3 construction jobs. Of their 349 projects, 7047 jobs have been created and generated $253,672,900 in household income. The case studies also reveal the true catalytic effect of the federal historic tax credit. The number of building permits issued, particularly for alteration, conversion, and repair has skyrocketed, the numbers show that people are moving back to areas where these projects have been completed, and property values have increased. One of the case studies discussed is the American Can Company, where surrounding property values in 2005 were $1,626,069. Eight years later, that same property is valued at $24,368,347.

Since its inception into the tax code over 30 years ago, $21 billion of tax credits have generated over $26.6 billion in federal tax revenue. With 75% of the revenue benefiting the state and local economies, this is a program which has proven itself time and time again. Since the first tax credit in 1978, $109 billion in private monies spurred by the federal tax credit have created 2.4 million jobs (generating $91.5 billion of income), 39,600 historic buildings have been rehabilitated, which includes 450,000 housing units. So how does Ohio compare? Between 2001 and 2013, 9799 projects were completed using $4,002,259,567 of tax credits across the country. Ohio contributed 775 projects, with $328,632,836 in tax credits, roughly 8%. Way to go, Ohio!

You can read more about the study and download a copy here.

Visual clues at the Fairfield County Infirmary Pt II

Yesterday we started reviewing a site visit to the Fairfield County Infirmary. Today we’ll take a look at a sandstone outbuilding on the property.

When I mentioned my excitement yesterday about the outbuildings, these pictured below were a big source of the excitement. Too often, unfortunately, these buildings are lost.

The outbuildings on a site can provide a richer detail of the day-to-day existence of the residents. Whether they were constructed with inferior materials or techniques, or decisions about ongoing maintenance focused on the main building to the detriment of the other buildings on the site, outbuildings can be too quickly and too easily lost to demolition.

The building in the foreground was well-constructed (obviously) with sandstone block composing the walls. But even a building material as sturdy as sandstone block can fall prey to the dangers of moisture. During the summer we may have hot and humid air just outside of this building, while the air temperature inside could be significantly cooler. Just like a cup of cold water will “sweat” in the hot summer air as water vapor condenses on its surface, water vapor in the air will condense on the cooler sandstone. While sandstone is an incredibly strong stone, its strength is compromised when wet, allowing deterioration to occur. In winter, when the warmer, wetter air in the interior of the building hits the colder, drier air, we have condensation, and ice.

The condensation and freeze/thaw cycles on the building contribute to an almost constant deterioration cycle. The moisture will attack the inherently weaker areas in the sandstone, and given 150+ years, the sandstone will show the pockmarked appearance, as the sandstone loses its binder. Working to equalize humidity and temperature levels between the outside and inside of the building will help to slow the deterioration. Otherwise, the owner of the building will have a large repair bill in the future, having to replace or restore the sandstone.

Given the location of the road and its proximity to the sandstone outbuilding, it’s also possible that salt-laden snow has been repeatedly piled against the lower wall. Any dissolved salt that penetrates the stone and refreezes will certainly speed deterioration of the stone. It’s important to try to keep all the possibilities in mind when assessing buildings and the site.

I’ll finish today’s post with a couple site photos, since the setting of the infirmary seemed very peaceful, especially on the day we visited.

With these two images of the back elevation and front facade of the building, you can get a sense of the topography of the site. Add active springs into the mix, and site drainage becomes an even more critical issue. There are places in the main building where you can hear the rush of the underground springs as they channel the water through the property.

The front lawn in this image is actually on the other side of Route 37. The county owned nearly 2,000 acres, I think, at its height for the infirmary site, but most of the land has been parceled off and sold. The lawn in this picture is part of OU’s Lancaster branch site.

We’re keeping close tabs on the fate of the complex and we’ll be sure to keep you updated as we learn new information. Thanks to Jon Slater, Fairfield County Auditor, and Dennis Keller, Facilities Manager, for hosting us and giving us a peek into an important piece of Fairfield County history!

Visual clues at the Fairfield County Infirmary Pt I

Back in early May, Jeff and I visited the Fairfield County Infirmary. The main building is commonly known as the Miller Building. The campus is located on State Route 37, north and east of downtown Lancaster. The site is hilly and very picturesque, with underground springs that originally provided the water needs for the campus.

Jeff and I visited that day to tour the site with Fairfield County officials. The campus is nearly 100% vacant currently, and commissioners have sought ideas for redevelopment (thankfully, they are entertaining redevelopment options that include the preservation and continued use of some, if not all, of the buildings located on the site).

It was a thrill to tour through buildings dating to the 1820s, and to see so many of the site’s outbuildings that had survived, some in continued use even today. As we toured I paid special attention to what was happening with the buildings and the site. I kept in mind questions such as: how do the locations of buildings on the site (and the grading on the site) contribute to the protection of buildings and materials, or contribute to their deterioration; how have alterations and repairs protected buildings or sped their deterioration; and how have differences with temperature and humidity affected building materials. I’ll report on what I found over the next couple posts.

While it was initially puzzling to see this distinct two-toned appearance on the sandstone retaining wall, a closer investigation of the individual blocks points to a probable cause.

The two detail shots show what appears to be an intact stone crust, but a deteriorated interior structure. This means that water or water vapor was likely trapped within the stone. In other words, the surface of the stone became impermeable, not allowing trapped water or water vapor to pass through. Typically, if a stone or brick is coated with an impermeable sealer, the water or vapor collects against the inside face of the stone. The sustained wetness, not to mention freeze-thaw cycles, will cause the continual deterioration of the stone, as the water cannot escape, while the outside face of the stone appears relatively sound.

The sealed or “protected” face of the stone remains relatively deterioration-free, until the complete disintegration of the interior structure of the stone causes the crust to flake off, due to a lack of any internal support.

These images provide a perfect example of why I get nervous any time I hear someone talking about the need to “waterproof” or “seal” a masonry surface. While there are sealers that work well with masonry when there is a true need, so many times we see the sealer doing more damage than good because: 1) the masonry wall does not actually need to be sealed, and, 2) the sealer does not allow water vapor to pass through, trapping interior moisture within the masonry, speeding up deterioration.

There’s no mistaking that masonry can be a very strong building component, when used the right way. When masonry is stacked, such as the brick used in the building in this image, its ability to hold up the structure and work against gravity is impressive. However, masonry is no match for forces pushing against a wall (as opposed to forces such as gravity, which pushes down through the wall, not against it). Here, a single thickness concrete block retaining wall shows a visible bow as the pressure exerted by the earthen hill exceeds the strength of the bond between the block and the mortar in the retaining wall.

What I really like about this image is the well-worn sandstone door sill. On the day this sill was placed, the plane across the top of the stone was level and straight. The wear we see in the image is the tangible evidence of the people that came before us, thousands of steps coming into or out of the building, crossing the threshold.

Also interesting to note is the lower rail of the screen door. Instead of fabricating the typical rectangular shape, someone accounted for the gap created by the wear and cut a custom fitted rail, conforming to the dip in the stone.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more visuals from our visit, and more thoughts about the different forces acting upon the buildings.

Preservation trades annual conference coming back to St Clairsville!

I’m so excited to let you know that the Preservation Trades Network is bringing its annual conference (the International Preservation Trades Workshop, or IPTW) back to Ohio, specifically to St Clairsville! On September 12 and 13, Belmont College’s campus will become an unparalleled learning center for attendees to watch countless demonstrations related to the building trades. Promising 30+ traditional trade demonstrations in 10 different tracks, PTN’s workshop will truly have something for everyone.

However, it won’t just be about learning. There’s a Wheeling Pub & History Crawl, awards dinner and auction, *and* Trades Olympics! (I suppose I better get those chisels sharpened.)

So, it’s one thing to be excited about this year’s IPTW and the great opportunities to watch demonstrations, but I’m doubly excited because Belmont College is my alma mater. It’s where I first learned the finer points on reconstructing a sandstone foundation wall, learned how to recondition old wood windows to function like new, learned how to repair plaster, how to create new stained glass and restore historic stained glass, learned stone carving. Oh, and learned how systems like plumbing and electrical work in a house.

Preservation and the trades have become so intertwined both in my personal and professional life, that the campus of Belmont is like hallowed ground for me…where it all started for me, if you will. Although it’s been almost 20 years since I was a student at Belmont, to this day I’m still actively putting into practice what I learned there, so coming back to brush up on the trades, learn new tips and techniques, or to just be amazed by the talent and ability on display will be an amazing privilege to experience.

Online registration is open now. Just go to and click on IPTW 2014. I hope to see you there!

What do you geek out over?

We all have something we geek out over, something we could spend hours looking at or studying. Maybe for you it is house colors, baseball statistics, the next way you might design your garden. For me, I regularly have what I call nerd nights where I pick a city and look at the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. Sanborn maps are probably my favorite historic resource to consult and for this blog post, I am going to share why I get so excited when I find Sanborn maps.

Sandusky Sanborn Example

A Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Sandusky

Sanborn maps were created as a risk analysis tool for insurance underwriters. The maps were produced from 1866 through 1970. Population growth, demographic shifts, and urban sprawl all necessitated the need for regularly updated maps. A new map was created approximately every 10 years. The maps were created for towns and cities, but are generally not available for country properties. For the bigger cities, like Columbus or Cleveland, multiple volumes were needed to show the entire city. New York City reportedly has 39 volumes.

What’s so special about these maps? The wealth of detail and information which can be gained about a building for which there are no photographs can often be found in these maps. Each map was created on a piece of paper measuring 21” x 25” and was drawn at a scale of 50 feet to 1 inch. Everything was measured by tapeline, including the buildings, streets, sidewalks, and other utility features like distance to fire hydrants, gas lines, and water lines. The last part was particularly important for the fire insurance aspect of the maps. While the maps were created across the country, all maps are set up the same; all keyed the same, and demonstrate the same level of detail. Each volume was set up in the following order: a decorative title page, index of streets and “specials” which included schools, churches, and bigger businesses, a master key for the map (a map of the entire city color coded and numbered showing which map you would need to look up for your particular address), and some general information on population, geography, geology, economy, etc. In the case where multiple volumes were needed for a city, the master map would also let you know the volume number you needed if the area was adjoining the map you were currently using. Many states, including Ohio, have indexed digitized copies of the maps. If you have a library card, you can access this database (yes, even from your home in your comfy clothes). Here’s the link unfortunately, most of the digitized maps are black and white, but a lot of information can still be gained.

For this example, we will look at Heritage Ohio’s location. If you’ve never been to our office, feel free to do a quick Google maps street view search so you can get a 2014 idea of what the neighborhood looks like today. Our address is 846 East Main Street, Columbus. Click on the sanborn.ohioweblibrary link from above and type in Columbus on the search box. Now we have a list of the maps which have been digitized for the city. Notice that the first two years only have a single volume, then in 1901 there are 3 volumes, 1921 there are 6, and then in 1951 there are 9 volumes.


Go ahead and click on 1887. This will bring up a hyperlink for each map and also lists the “specials” and the streets (including the street numbers represented on that map). We want the street titled, Main, E which includes 846.


One of the first pages (usually page 0a or something similar) will always be the index, which if there were multiple volumes for the map would let us know if we were in the correct volume. In this case, the index is the first link. Clicking on the link, we find that there was a gap in the mapping between 824 and 893 East Main Street. Rather irksome knowing they cut off right where you need the map! So, click the red ‘x’ next to the Date: Feb, 1887 on the left side of the screen and it will bring you back to the list of maps.

1891 Map


Let’s try 1891. The index tells us that we need sheet number 70. On the right side of the screen, you can “jump to” a specific page. Go ahead and type in 70 and check it out. You should be able to zoom in to read the tiny details. If you had a chance to drive by our office or street viewed the neighborhood, you would know there is a square block of nothingness across the street from us. However, now you know what used to be there….an orphan asylum, and a large campus at that! The next map available is from 1901. I’ll save you the time and let you know you that our address is in Volume 3, sheet 320. Compared to the last map, we can see there has been a lot of development on our block. Our building is at the bottom of the sheet, where 844 and 848 are labeled. Yes, the one with the attached bowling alley. Focusing on this parcel of land, this map shows us that the building was 2 stories, with an opening to get between 844 and 848 in the middle, as well as access to the bowling alley. Keep going and find out what else became of the block. What became of the orphan asylum?

1891 Street

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1891

The color coded maps, in my opinion, are well worth the trip to the library or historical society. Here are the links for the keys so you can decipher the map. For the black and white maps, like the digitized maps mentioned in this blog, use this key:

Here is a color coded key:

Here is a link for the many of the abbreviations found on the maps:



Countering demolition arguments…or beating the “George Washington slept here” mindset

When I was young my parents shuffled me and my sister around the country to take in our country’s landmarks during the summer family vacations. With only enough time to hit the highlights of American history, we grew up with a narrow perspective of what it meant for something to be “historic.” Historic was a term reserved for east coast taverns where George Washington slept, Independence Hall in Philadelphia where our founding fathers toiled over the wording to the Declaration of Independence, and Lincoln’s boyhood home in Indiana (itself a replica, but nonetheless, a “historic” replica).

History was synonymous with national importance, but there was some room for folks with state importance: governors, semi-mythical figures, and such. What really didn’t have that heritage cache, though, were the local historic districts, whether residential or commercial. Each district had many fine, old buildings, but we didn’t travel to Madison, Indiana, to take in their huge landmark districts and learn about their old buildings. I’m guessing a lot of people were raised with the bias about what constitutes historic versus non-historic, and whether we could still consider all of the places where Washington *didn’t* sleep as historic in their own right.

While that began to change in the 1930s as communities such as Charleston, South Carolina, and New Orleans designated local historic districts, giving residents on a board of architectural review the power to stop the demolition of historic resources, the Penn Central case in the 1970s seemed to put the federal government’s stamp of approval on the designation and protection of historic resources in local districts. In other words, we were beginning to figure out that a wide swath of our history and architecture was important, was worth preserving, and was worth protecting against demolition.

How things have changed, collectively, in the last 25-30 years.

What’s on the grocery list? Milk, bread, support for Heritage Ohio?

Yes, you can shop and assist Heritage Ohio at the same time, and it’s easy to do. Once again, Heritage Ohio is a nonprofit partner in Kroger’s Community Rewards program. What does that mean? Quite simply, each shopping trip to Kroger means a small donation for Heritage Ohio. And those small donations really add up. In fact, we’ve received over $900 to date, from people doing their everyday shopping at Kroger!

We’d love to have you as part of our Kroger shopping army, benefiting Heritage Ohio with each purchase. It’s easy to set up your Kroger Plus Card to direct your Community Rewards to Heritage Ohio. You can learn more and sign up here. If you sign up, let us know, so we can give you a proper thanks!

Curious about our photo contest winner?

We’ve announced the winner in our Preservation Month 2014 Photo Contest. You can find out who snapped the winning picture here.

Sedamsville Sanitation: Urban Archaeology

The last archaeology blog focused on the Queensgate II neighborhood (today known as the Betts Longworth Historic District) in Cincinnati. Queensgate’s growth started to take off in the 1830s. We saw a shift from largely mercantile/white collar neighborhood to a working class, lower-income population, which corroborated archival research. While this project occurred in Cincinnati, it focused on a period of development in an outer Cincinnati neighborhood. What would the socio-economic differences be between the neighborhoods? What additional information can the archaeological assemblage add to the archival history? Are there any similarities between this middle class neighborhood and Queensgate?

For this project, archaeologists were brought in prior to the expansion of River Road. A survey of the area which would be impacted by the project was conducted on 25 lots on the south side of River Road. Five of these properties had intact features at the time of the survey, including privies, cisterns and wells. These five features were recommended for further testing in Phase II of this project. Archival research and further testing (Phase II) revealed 5 historic-era archaeological sites within 7 parcels. Four of the five features still retained significant integrity which could yield potential data, making this area eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Based on archival research, the significant time range is 1860-1922; the dates in which the features were in use, and when the neighborhood developed. Phase III (this project) reveals what data was found and the interpretations made by this research team about the development of Sedamsville, the residents, and a glimpse into sanitation and health concerns of the residents. This project was completed by Michael Striker, Donna Bryant, James Pritchard, Rita Walsm, Lena Sweeten, Kevin Pape, Donald Miller and Bradley MacDonald. The report is titled, “Phase III Archaeological Investigations at Four Sites (33HA733, 33HA735, 33HA736, and 33HA737) in the Sedamsville Neighborhood Conducted for the River Road Improvement Project (HAM-US 50-17.69; PID 20176).” All information was taken from this report.


History of River Road

Sedamsville is located on the far west side of Cincinnati, on the Ohio River. Henry Sedam formed Sedamsville on land he inherited. Settlement began around 1795. In 1835 Storrs Township was formed, and Sedamsville was annexed to Cincinnati in 1870. The River Road neighborhood really took off following construction of the Cincinnati and Indiana Railroad in the early 1860s. Electric streetcar service replaced horse-drawn wagons by the 1880s, which brought yet another wave of residents. This increase in population can be seen in the architectural styles. If you look up River Road in Sedamsville on a street-view map, you can still see the architectural trends. Very decorative Queen Anne style houses sit at the rear of the lot along River Road. Originally, this provided a large front yard, a separation from the road with a stone wall, but still provided views of the Ohio River. By the turn of the 20th century, American Foursquare and Colonial Revival houses began to fill the front portion of the lots.

One of the stumbling blocks in the record search for the properties on this project, as with many projects, is deciphering whether the person who is listed in the property records is the person actually living in the house. This presented itself in two ways in this project; vague description from city directories (such as simply listing the family lived on River Road or in the 21st Ward instead of a specific address) and maps which did not match the city directory names and descriptions. Additionally, there were many cases in which the property was owned by one person but leased out to another family. All of these factors need to be considered when interpreting an archaeology site.

The properties were all once part of one big property, belonging to Ethan Stone. A prominent Cincinnatian, Stone spent part of his life in downtown Cincinnati and part of his time out “in the country” of Storrs Township. Not a lot of personal information was found about him; he was not found in the census records, and despite having owned property in Sedamsville, does not show up on the 1835 or1847 atlas maps. Stone does, however, hold the record for the longest ongoing court cases regarding the leasing out of his land; 160 years. If you do an internet search for Ethan Stone Land Case you should be able to find the details.


Fast Facts of Each Property

2823 River Road

Footprint of the property first appears on a map in 1869, at the time the property changed hands from Philip Munrath to John Drott. Drott was a stone mason, and an early partner with Charles Kuhl at Charles Kuhl Artificial Stone Company. The property was passed on to John’s daughter. The property was then sold to John Eckert; however it appears that Eckert rented out the property instead of residing at the property. Between 1916 and 1928 the B&O Railroad owned the property. The features are attributed to the time of Drott’s residency on the property.

Features on this property include a bottle-shaped cistern and a feature described by the authors as “brick over limestone paving,” which was located next to the current sidewalk. The artifacts from the cistern reveal that it had been used as a place for disposing household waste after the cistern went out of use. The largest artifact category represented is architectural. Definite mixing of layers occurred, which suggests a large house cleaning episode at some point on or after 1968 (based upon a 1968 penny found in the top strata). Therefore, little information directly linking the artifacts to specific residents of that property could be gleaned.


2739 River Road

The main structure on the property first appears on the 1883-1884 Cincinnati Atlas, however an outbuilding (privy) does not appear on a map until 1891. The 1904 map shows these buildings, however a slightly different location of the outbuilding. Property records are incomplete between 1839 and 1870, at which point Cyrus Coffin owned the property (though did not live on site). Cyrus’ son, Telemachus, sold the property to Frederick Myers in 1870. Based tax information and city directories, it appears the house (and outbuildings) were constructed during Myer’s time living on the property. Myer’s, a Cincinnati Policeman, and his family only lived there for three years, at which point they sold the property to Charles Kuhl. Kuhl and his family turned around and sold the property to John Tischbein (a shoe manufacturer and dealer) in 1875. While we know, based on city directories, that Tischbein lived and worked on Lower River Road, it cannot be certain that he lived (or worked) at this property. In the 1884 directory, Tischbein is listed at a few blocks away, and rented this property to their son. The city directory does list boarders living with the Tischbeins.

A dry-laid undressed limestone privy shaft was identified on this property. The upper portions were angled at approximately 30 degrees, instead of a straight vertical descent. The change took place at approximately 120cm below ground surface. For safety precautions, a trench was excavated around the privy during excavation. During this activity, a stone wall was discovered behind the privy. The base of the wall was at roughly the same level as the point where the privy angle changed. There were two major activity layers; backfilling and night soil. Night soil represents the deposits from when the privy functioned as a toilet. While the property was looted, it appears that the looters were likely only interested in whole bottles (redepositing much of the artifact assemblage). Housewares (including ceramics, lamp chimney glass, and cookware) were most common, followed by bone/ivory/shell (which includes food refuse), and lastly ceramic fragments. Smaller numbers of dolls, marbles, toys, bottles, architectural items, and clothing-related items were also recovered. Based on the artifacts found, it is suggested that this represents daily deposition. Foods represented show both a local presence, as well as being connected to an international food distribution network. Ceramic fragments show a preference for undecorated white ware.


2731 River Road

Much like 2739, this property has some gaps in knowing who actually resided on the property. John A. Bohrer (a basket weaver already living in the area) purchased the property in 1862. The first map available showing a house in that area is from 1869; however the city directories at that time were vague and therefore we do not know whether Bohrer actually lived at the house on the map. The 1884 atlas shows two buildings in the general location of this property, however neither building matches that of the 1869 map. John Bohrer’s heirs sold the property to August Wehmeier in 1886. Wehmeier ran a beer garden and bowling alley on River Road between 1864 and 1891, which would have been a few properties down the road. It is unclear whether Wehmeier resided at 2731 River Road, however they continued to live and work on River Road through the 20th century. The property was passed down to August’s daughter, who then sold the property out to her brother-in-law, Charles Wehmeier. Charles, an upholsterer, rented out the property and never resided there. By 1904 an outbuilding formerly on the property is gone and a new one-story frame building is present. The property continued to be rented out as it changed hands.

A privy dating circa 1900 was identified on this property. The privy was fully looted prior to excavations, therefore the artifacts were not in their primary context which leaves a gap in temporal interpretation. The wall mentioned in the earlier properties was also identified behind this privy. Due to the heavy looting of this privy, the representations of different categories of artifacts are likely skewed. Ceramics show a preference for undecorated wares. High amounts of fragments of glass from lamp chimneys, fragments of medicine bottles, and presence of kitchen waste demonstrate that disposal was gradual (daily, as opposed to one massive cleaning).


2723 River Road

In October 1849, the land was leased by Ethan Stone to Christian Krugle. The property remained in the family for decades. While Krugle’s name is on the deed, his name doesn’t appear on the census from 1840, 1850, or 1860, nor is there any reference to him in early county histories. He died intestate in 1869, at which time the property went to his daughter, Louisa Schmidt, nee Krugle. Based on city directories, the authors explain that it is likely the Schmidts lived at 2723 River Road, with Louisa’s husband (William) running a paint business out of the house. The 1891 map shows the house and a single large frame building identified as paint shop in the rear of the parcel. Like her father, very little information could be found about Louisa. Louisa died intestate in 1908, followed by William in 1914. The three children inherited equal portions of the property, but two of them sold their shares to the third, Stella. Stella owned the property, but her family lived up the block. Stella’s brothers each rented out the property for periods of time. The authors explain that Albert (one of Stella’s brothers) lived there from 1909-1919, after which it appears the house was not rented or occupied at all.

A privy was identified in the 1891 map. Today that spot was occupied by a driveway. A portion of the driveway was removed. Beneath, a square 2Mx2M stone lined privy was located. It is not known when it was built, but based on the neighboring privies and knowing when the area was plumbed for sewage, it was likely abandoned around 1922. Gravel, construction debris, cinders, coal and charcoal fragment were identified extending 1.35 Meters below ground surface. A quarter of the unit was further excavated to 2.72M below ground surface, at which point a large rock was encountered impeding further excavation. Most artifacts were limestone fragments, 84 pieces of linoleum or vinyl flooring were the second most common artifact. A few personal items including a doll marked “Germany”, liquor and medicine bottles, and a watch or locket lid were identified. The authors suggest that these artifacts were all deposited during a fill episode when the privy went out of use, and therefore little about day-to-day life of the residents could be learned.


2717 River Road

This property has the least definite residency history of the properties from this project. It appears that the house first appears on the 1869 map, however a lack of detail on the map makes it difficult to determine if this is the same property. At that point in time, Edward Bepler owned the property (along with many other lots along River Road), however the Bepler family rented out the property. Louis Hohendorf is listed as residing on “River Road west of Mt. Echo Road” between 1872 and 1886; in the area of this property, though not a specific address. Edward Bepler’s daughter, however, married Louis’ brother. Perhaps just a coincidence. While family members resided for brief periods of time, the majority of the residents were unknown renters. What we do know, however, is that on the 1883-1884 atlas, a frame rectangular building appears on the property. No outbuildings are shown and no owners are listed. The 1891 map shows a two-story frame dwelling with a one-story frame addition on the rear. An outbuilding, likely a privy, also appears on the property. This property was plumbed for sewage the first year available; 1919.

While this property has a certain lack of firm residential history, it has a unique archaeological feature; wooden privy vaults. Features 11 and12 are considered separate features (each a separate privy vault, but part of the same privy). The fill in each was also different. They were identified approximately 2 Meters below ground surface, during a backhoe excavation. Feature 11 contained three distinct layers, with the 3rd layer being the night soil, containing the heaviest amount of artifacts and organic material. Unlike the other privies mentioned earlier, there is a high representation of botanical and food refuse (food which had to be thrown away, not digested) and a low representation of domestic items like ceramics, glass, and personal items. This suggests that at least for the people who lived here during the time this privy was in use, it was not common practice to dispose of these domestic items here. This brings up the question of what people did with broken glass, ceramics, or clothing which could no longer be worn. The other vault (Feature 12), however, shows a different story. While kitchen slop was thrown out in this vault, a high number of unidentified metal items and fragments from vessel glass and bottles were identified. While Feature 11 had the highest concentration of artifacts at the bottom layer, Feature 12 had the highest representation on the first layer. It has been suggested that while there was a gradual deposition pattern for Feature 11, Feature 12 shows more of a house-cleaning event; a mass deposit.


One of the interesting parts, in my opinion, was the wall which was uncovered during privy shaft excavations. Additions to privy shafts were made at the same level as the base of the wall. This brings up the questions of whether they were linked and why the wall was buried. According to archival research, there was a series of massive floods between 1882 and 1884. This would explain the heavy amounts of soil accumulated on each property, and the need for creating an addition to heighten the privy shaft on each property. It also brings up questions, such as would the soil have filled the privy shafts? If this occurred, does this mean that the artifacts which were temporally mixed once in distinct layers or did the flooding have any mixing effect on the privy shafts?


Sanitation Laws and Attention to Health

American cities lagged behind when it came to sewage system modernization and drinking water sanitation laws. There were no regulations for privies or sanitation prior to 1867. Notes from the Cincinnati Board of Health in 1868 state, “In many parts of the city, privy vaults fill with water from springs and surface drainages, and not infrequently overflow into neighboring cellars and yards (6-7).” Laws were put in place explaining, “No butcher’s offal or garbage, nor any dead animals, nor any putrid or stinking animal or vegetable matter shall be thrown in any street, place or receiving basin, or into any standing water or excavation, or upon the ground of premises of any other person in the city.” Privies were to be cleaned by professionals, night soil was to be disinfected and removed. Ashes and cinders were separated and picked up 3 times per week. Following an outbreak of Cholera, the City revamped their laws again. People now needed to get a permit to dig privy, walls of the privy needed to be no less than 8 inches thick and constructed of stone or brick. The privy walls were to be water-tight, which may have been out of concern that the liquid from the privy vaults was leaching into the drinking water. Once the privies fell into disuse, they were “to be cleaned to the bottom and filled up with earth or other suitable material, such filling [was] to be done under the supervision of a sanitary office,” (Rowland 1886:129). It is not clear how well the ordinances were enforced.

Throughout the late 1880s and into the 1890s, thousands of reports were filed for full privies, improper cleaning, or leaking privies. It is not clear whether the sanitation laws required existing privies to be modified to comply with the regulations. If all the privy regulations were being followed, there would be no artifacts in the privy vaults. Plant and animal remains were found in all privy vaults. The most recent privy, constructed after the laws were implemented, was constructed of brick, but was only one course thick and only 9 feet deep. Since this privy was entirely looted and back filled by looters, it is difficult to say whether the vault was cleaned prior to abandonment. However, due to the number of artifacts recovered (by both this team as well as prior looting) it is safe to say probably not. The night soil layer was found in most of the privies, and while the privies were filled upon abandonment, they were not filled with clean earth. Additionally, with the flooding which occurred in the 1880s, assuming this is why the additions were constructed on privy shafts, what were the parameters around these projects? Was each household required to obtain a permit to build, or was it up to each homeowner to heighten their privy shaft, in accordance with maintenance regulations? This information could give additional insight into whether the outcome of the construction project was based on how much the resident could afford to pay for the addition, or whether they had the skills to build the addition. With this, we would need to know who paid for the maintenance; the property owner or the renter.

While the privies appear to not follow sanitation laws and regulations, it does appear that the residents had a concern for their health. As many know, a large amount of the medicines available during this time were laced with morphine, alcohol, or other addictive elements. Many of the medicines were advertised to cure a range of ailments (as opposed to a specific issue). Looking at the artifact assemblage recovered, and knowing that many more bottles were likely looted, this addictive trend is confirmed. When medicinal bottle showed up in the assemblage, more than one bottle of specific types were often found. This suggests either the medicine actually worked, or people were hooked on them. Similarly, the presence of clear glass milk bottles and mineral water bottles could suggest a concern for the sanitation and contamination of available local water and of milk.



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