During the month of May, volunteer archaeologists led by Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer are carefully digging through layers of history at the Caulker’s Houses in Fell’s Point. Please stop by the weekend of June 1–2 anytime from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to discover what the dig has turned up on our free public archaeology tour of organized in partnership by the Herring Run Archaeology Project, Baltimore Heritage, and the Preservation Society of Federal Hill and Fell’s Point, and the Friends of 612-614 South Wolf Street.
Built as early as 1801, the Caulker’s Houses at 612 and 614 South Wolfe Street are two of the smallest and oldest wooden homes remaining in Fell’s Point. Between 1842 and 1854, the buildings became homes to African American ship caulkers Richard Jones, Henry Scott, and John Whittington. The shipbuilding industry in Fell’s Point depended on free and enslaved black labor and these small homes provide an important reminder of that history. The buildings are also known the Two Sisters Houses after sisters Mary Leeke Rowe Dashiell and Eleanor Marine Dashiell, the last owners before Preservation Society acquired the buildings.
We have more fun tours to share today but also some unfortunate news. Earlier this week, a surprise demolition took down two 1840s stone houses in the Woodberry neighborhood near Clipper Mill. The loss is particularly upsetting because it follows repeated assurances that the houses would be retained and incorporated into a new apartment building. Read our post on this issue to learn more about what we can do to ensure Baltimore’s historic places are valued and retained.
Now, if you’ve been in Baltimore for any amount of time, we hoped you’ve visited Druid Hill Park at least once or twice. This spring, we’re hoping you’ll spend a little time getting to know the park even better. On Saturday, June 8, we want you to take a ride on Druid Hill Park’s quiet back streets and paths to explore all the hidden nooks and crannies with Ralph Brown and Graham Coreil-Allen as your guides. Then, on the evening of Wednesday, June 12, we’re back at Druid Hill Park for a tour of the Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory. Modeled after London’s famed Kew Gardens, we’ll learn about the past and present operation of this botanical oasis.
We’re also excited to share an invitation from local archaeologists Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer. Instead of the usual spring field season in Herring Run Park, you can find them in Fell’s Point next weekend, Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2, for a free public archaeology open house at the Caulker’s Houses on South Wolfe Street. We expect this archaeological investigation to turn up all kinds of stories and artifacts including connections to the 1840s and 1850s when the two wooden houses were home to a number of African American ship caulkers. Check out an update on what the dig has found so far over on the Herring Run Archaeology project website. It is a bit of an understatement to say that the houses are not universally accessible (no floors and barely-there stairs!) but, if you can’t go in, you can still see artifacts displayed on a table set up on the sidewalk.
Finally, you definitely don’t want to miss our 2019 Historic Preservation Awards Celebration on Thursday June 13! We’ll be celebrating the best work of the year at the former Hoen & Co. Lithograph Company building. In addition to helping us congratulate the award winners, you’ll get up close and inside and this former industrial building and see its transformation into new offices and training spaces.
The Herring Run Park Archaeology Project saw some exciting finds in the field this spring. But archaeologists Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer will tell you that archaeology isn’t just about what you find, it’s what you find out! Please join the project’s new volunteer lab manager Karen Hutchins-Keim and student intern Lily Roze Annenberg this summer as we clean and process the artifacts recovered during our archaeological dig this past spring. Go ahead and sign up today!
You do not need any previous experience to participate. High school-aged volunteers are welcome. Working in the lab is a great way to learn how archaeologists identify and analyze artifacts whether they are broken pieces of brick or delicate shards of pottery.
You can also support the project by making a donation online to help cover the costs of the materials we use to conserve the artifacts. Finally, you can learn more about the dig with series of “Field Notes from Herring Run” that Lisa and Jason shared this past spring.
Thanks to Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer for this final update from the 2016 field season for the Herring Run Archaeology Project. You can find their updates on our blog, the project website, and on Facebook.
As we filled all our test units in yesterday, we were discussing all the things we’ve learned so far from our amazing week of excavations. Here are some highlights:
We have the most incredible volunteers. This was an awful lot of hard work, and you guys were all so wonderful. We cannot do this without you, and we cannot thank you enough.
The early Broad family occupation (1680-1742) is intact, and this is indeed where their house was located! We didn’t know this for sure until this week, and this is a huge discovery—the earliest and best-documented historic site in Baltimore City and County!
We have significant evidence that the enslaved women and men who worked in the Eutaw manor house lived in the basement. We’ve discovered two probable hearths that would have provided heat and cooking fires, a subfloor pit that was used for food storage, and evidence of a laundry where Venus Tilghman worked. Finding evidence that relates specifically to Venus and Jeremiah Tilghman and the other enslaved people who made life at Eutaw possible has always been one of the major goals of the project.
The Eutaw house had a tiled roof, decorative marble flourishes (a mantle or even a marble entryway), and elaborate window hardware.
The house also had a finished basement! Many of the stone walls we uncovered this year still had plaster attached.
In the yard, a path paved with river cobbles and pebbles led to the house, and much of the material excavated from the cellar during the house’s construction was used to build a terrace that surrounds the hill where the house was situated.
We also have plenty of new questions to guide our future work. So thank you again to all our volunteers, visitors and supporters for another successful year!
Thanks to Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer for this update from day six and day seven of the Herring Run Archaeology Project. You can find their updates on our blog, the project website, and on Facebook. You can also subscribe to the project email list to read these posts in your inbox.
We’ve continued working on both the Eutaw manor house and the earlier part of the site over the last two days, and we’ve learned a great deal in a very short period of time.
In the manor house, we discovered a mysterious pit near the southwest corner of the foundation that contained two complete wine bottles and several pieces of eggshell.
In the northeast corner, we’ve identified a builder’s trench. This may not sound very exciting, but it’s a significant find: the builder’s trench usually contains only artifacts that date to the time of a building’s construction, which allows us to put a firm date on a structure. This builder’s trench contains artifacts identical to those we’ve found in the earliest part of the site, where the Broad family lived from circa 1680 to 1740! This reveals two important facts: the first is that the Broads may have lived where the Eutaw manor house once stood, and that their home was displaced when Eutaw was built. It also allows us to positively, indisputably identify the Eutaw manor house as the building that was present from the 1760s until 1865—no later house took its place.
In the earlier part of the site, we’ve identified a trash midden containing domestic trash dating to the time of the Broad occupation – 1680 to 1740. This has revealed important new clues about life in the early colonial period in the Baltimore area – a time period about which we know very, very little. Amidst a truly huge number of oyster shells, we found a delicate china teacup, a Chinese porcelain bowl, numerous pieces of stoneware tankards and jugs, wine bottle glass, and clay pipe stems.
Tomorrow is our public day, and the last day for excavation at this tremendously important site! We hope to see you at the Archaeology Open House tomorrow, April 30!