Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 7: A Tour of the Market Master's/ Hard Work Pays Off In Unit 2

Another hot but exciting day in the field. Interesting features and artifacts were found (see below). We also received a tour of the Market Master's House from John and Ellen Pliska who are currently living in the house, and who also kindly treated us to a delicious lunch of Bratwurst! We asked them to guest blog for us today about the history of the Market Master's House, and what it is like to live in it circa 2009:

"Hi. We’re Jon and Ellen Pliska. We’ve lived in the Market Master’s House for almost 4 years. We’re thrilled to have the archeological project going on. It’s a great way to teach the public about all of the interesting things that have gone on here since 1760."
Jon: "The history Market Master’s House goes back to 1742 with the founding of the town of Bladensburg. In that year, the lot next door was set aside for the Market Square. Later that century, a large tobacco warehouse was erected there. We believe the “Market Master’s House” has a strong relationship with the Market Square. The building was constructed between 1760 and 1765 by Christopher Lowndes, a local merchant and one of the wealthiest men in the Maryland Colony. The house, most likely, served a commercial purpose for Lowndes, possibly a warehouse, store, a residence for the market master, or even a stop for the local mail, as Lowndes was one of the original 13 Postal Officers appointed by Benjamin Franklin. In all likelihood, the house served a variety of functions at the same time.
The house remained in the Lowndes family until 1883, at some point transitioning into a residence. Unfortunately, by the 1920s, the house was in a severely dilapidated condition. At this time, it was saved by Raymond Evans. Evans repaired the house and added a new bedroom on the top floor and a kitchen and a small dining room on the first floor. He turned an upstairs closet into the only indoor bathroom. Evans lived in the house with his wife and three children. That must have been very cozy. We can’t imagine living here with three other people!!!
Following the departure of the Evans family, the house was owned and rented out for over 50 years by Susana Christofane, the then mayor of Bladensburg (and ardent preservationist) and later her daughter Susana Christofane Yachtman. In 2004, the Market Master’s House was purchased by the Aman Memorial Trust, a local group dedicated to historic preservation in and about the town of Bladensburg."
Ellen: "Living in the house can be interesting at times. Our friends say it’s like being inside Alice in Wonderland, with all of the funny shaped doors, low ceilings, and curvy stairs. Taking a shower can be a bit of a challenge for people over 5’8”. Jon has to bend a bit to fit in the shower. I’m only 5’6” and while I can stand, I have to bend to get the top of my head wet. Despite these things, it’s like living in a story-book house."

Also on the site today persistence paid off, as we found an artifact to help us date the prehistoric component of the site.
Janet Donlin writes: "Hard work really does pay off! Mike and I have been working hard in the sun to finish up Test Unit 2. Just this morning we hit what we thought was sub-soil, and were ready to finish up the unit. As we went through it, however, we kept finding little pieces of cultural material here and there, from the 19th- and 20th-centuries. It started to turn up less and less as the afternoon wore on, and Mike and I were both ready to close up the unit. Around 3:00 Julie came over to see the unit and Mike was telling her how we were nearly done. No sooner had he said this than I discovered a stone projectile point. It’s about 2 inches long and we think it dates to the Archaic Period, (between 7500 B.C. – 1000 B.C.) This is just the kind of thing that our unit was looking for, and I’m so glad we didn’t call it quits before finding it. This is definite proof of Native American occupation in the area. We’re going to keep digging tomorrow, and hopefully we can find some more like this!"
For info on the archaic period please see:

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