We are continuing to pay close attention to the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel project where the possible replacement of an existing railroad tunnel threatens to blocks of historic rowhouses and industrial buildings in West Baltimore. An open house meeting next week provides the latest opportunity to learn more about the project including new details on the project engineering and the environmental impact on Baltimore.
The grand Captain Isaac Edward Emerson at 2500 Eutaw Place is up for auction by One House at a Time this on June 23—an exciting opportunity for a new owner to step in and save this important Reservoir Hill landmark from over a decade of neglect.
Lisa and Jason are taking a well-deserved break from writing up their field notes so I’m stepping in to share a quick reflection on the first day of our weekend open house and the tremendous response we’ve encountered from visitors of all ages. With three tours around the site, we took nearly 100 people on a walk from the site of Eutaw Manor to visit the remains of the Eutaw farm mill race and an overgrown wagon road – features that are provided important clues to help us understand the historic landscape that survives in Herring Run Park.
Historic maps and images helped visitors to imagine what the site looked like 200 years ago and try to think about the lives of the people who lived and worked on the property. Eutaw wasn’t just home to William Smith. Around 1850, Venus and Jeremiah Tilghman were two of the fifteen people held in slavery on the property – and thanks to the Maryland Historical Society – we were able to share a daguerreotype of the couple with today’s visitors. Many who stopped shared their curiosity about what will happen to the artifacts after the dig is done. We encouraged everyone to sign up for project updates to find out about more opportunities to participate in the cleaning and processing of the artifacts from the dig later this year.
We also really appreciated Pamela Wood from the Baltimore Sun stopping by the dig to report on archaeology in Herring Run. It is wonderful to see the volunteers who made this project possible recognized for their important contributions:
Friends Jeanne Marsh and Ron Roski and 10-year-old neighborhood resident Sophia Manni bent over a mesh screen Saturday afternoon, shaking it in hopes that piles of dirt would reveal tiny fragments of artifacts. They found bits of ceramic, glass, charcoal and brick, as well as hand-made nails. Marsh, a member of the Archaeological Society of Maryland, was thrilled to participate in a project within the city. Many archaeological digs are out in the suburbs, she said, because much of the city has been paved over, making urban digs a rarity.
Sophia got a kick out of getting a firsthand look at history. She recently read about the Civil War and the evolution of women’s rights. “I love figuring out how people lived back then,” she said.
We do too, Sophia! Please come out to visit the site tomorrow – Sunday, May 17 – for a tour at 10:00 am, 11:30 am or 1:00 pm.
As of today, we have discovered three of the walls of Eutaw House. Jason placed several exploratory test pits on the southern end of the site and this afternoon, exposed the top of the south wall. The south wall is located approximately 60 feet from the north wall, so already we know that this is a substantial structure. If we find the east wall, we’ll be able to figure out the building’s size, orientation, the arrangement of some rooms in the house, and the likeliest locations of other features like chimneys and outbuildings.
Lisa and her crack squad of volunteers excavated the oyster midden this morning. This little trash pit was exciting, although it contained relatively few artifacts compared to other spots across the site. It was a shallow pit, approximately 4 feet in diameter, filled with oyster shells and a handful of historic-period (ca. 1770-1820) artifacts. The oyster shells are likely the remains of a single meal, and we can tell that once they were discarded, they were completely undisturbed until we found them. So the oyster midden represents a moment in time, the immediate aftermath of an oyster picnic preserved for hundreds of years.
Only three days left! Today, we’re hunting for the east wall of the house and will begin to explore more of the yard space. Plus: is the mysterious depression on the western edge of the site the foundation of a small outbuilding, or something else entirely? We hope to find out over the next few days.
Over the next two weeks, visitors to Herring Run Park can meet archaeologists Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer along with dozens of volunteers working together to uncover 200 years of hidden history. With support from Preservation Maryland, the Herring Run Park Archaeology project is bringing neighbors together to answer exciting questions about the history of northeast Baltimore and protect archaeological resources. Read on for a quick introduction to the project and details on the Herring Run Park Archaeology Open House Weekend, May 16-17.
On the park side of quiet Eastwood Drive, our team is searching for Eutaw – an 18th century country estate owned by William Smith. In addition to a long career as a merchant, Smith (not to be confused with General Samuel Smith) served as a representative from Maryland to the House of Representatives, the Maryland State Senate. Beyond this fascinating site, additional survey work (see the project update by archaeologist Lisa Kraus from last December) opened up new questions about a complicated landscape of archaeological remains that we hope to continue to explore through a nine-day excavation that begins this Saturday.
But this project is about more than history. Public archaeology bring neighbors together to share stories and preserve historic landscapes. For our third public archaeology project since 2011, we are excited to partner with the Northeast Baltimore History Roundtable and the Friends of Herring Run Parks. We are also glad to continue our partnerships with the Archeological Society of Maryland, Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, and Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks. Best of all are the amazing group of residents in Lauraville, Hamilton, and Arcadia who have championed this project over the past year. These residents who are donating their time and expertise to this effort and passionate about their community’s history. Local resident (and CHAP’s executive director) Eric Holcomb and his neighbor Rich Dowd even built the screens our volunteers will be using in the field!
You can still get involved as a volunteer or by sharing your own questions about the history of the park. Are you wondering who worked at the mills, the hotels, taverns, and farms that existed here in the 1800s? Did Native Americans establish settlements or camps here? How has the neighborhood changed over time, and what has stayed the same? Let us know your questions or ideas in the comments.
Herring Run Park Archaeology Open House Weekend
Northeast Baltimore residents, archaeology enthusiasts, students and families are all encouraged to stop by to learn more about historical archaeology and the history of Herring Run Park. We’ll be offering guided tours of the site at 10:00 am, 11:30 am, and 1:00 pm; family-friendly self-guided tours with the new TaleBlazer smartphone app; and opportunities to talk with the team and see the finds from the week of work in the park.
Updated 2015 May 7: The original version of this post incorrectly named Eutaw as the home of Samuel Smith. Eutaw was the property of William Smith and his cousin Samuel Smith lived nearby at Montebello. Our apologies for the error!