Volunteers explore a test unit at the Sellers Mansion
Volunteer archaeologists at the Sellers Mansion

Archaeology at Sellers Mansion Keeps Stabilization Moving Forward

Over the weekend of July 28, Dr. Adam Fracchia and a group of trained archaeologists volunteered with Baltimore Heritage in an archaeology exploration on the grounds around the Sellers Mansion in West Baltimore’s Lafayette Square neighborhood. The work was done to help the mansion’s owner, Sellers Mansion Partners LLC, meet a city requirement to conduct an archaeology investigation before moving forward in stabilizing the building.

Vacant and derelict free standing Victorian mansion
Sellers Mansion in West Baltimore’s Lafayette Square neighborhood

The Sellers Mansion was built in 1868 as the first residence on Lafayette Square by Matthew Bacon Sellers, Sr., the head of the Northern Central Railroad. Sellers’ son, Mathew Bacon Sellers, Jr., grew up in the house and went on to become a leader in creating what is today the space agency NASA. In addition to the Sellers home, the mansion served as offices for a variety of community organizations before becoming vacant in the 1990s. It has been  a preservation priority for Baltimore Heritage since then.

curved brick walkway uncovered.
Archaeologists exploring a curved brick walkway

The two-day investigation documented several aspects of the Sellers’ estate, including a curved brick walkway on the north side of the building and the foundation of a small free-standing building at the northeast corner that was likely a nursery.

 

blue and white ceramic fragment the size of a dime
Ceramic fragment

The volunteers also unearthed a number of ceramic fragments dating to before the Civil War. These include pieces of dinnerware and the stem of a clay pipe, the types of things that you would expect to find around a house that dates to the mid-nineteenth century.

fragment of slate pencil
Slate pencil

Late on the second and final day, the team also uncovered a section of a slate pencil: akin to today’s graphite pencil but without the wood and used to write on slate.

The exploration is now complete and the next step is for Dr. Fracchia and Baltimore Heritage to prepare and submit a report to the City’s historic preservation commission (CHAP) documenting the work and what was found. With CHAP’s approval, Sellers Mansion Partners will then have the green light to continue with stabilizing and eventually rehabbing the building.

 

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