We are taking a short break from fieldwork but will be resuming next week. The trenching at the Mango Cafe has been rescheduled for a later date. In the meantime, labwork and research are continuing and muscles are resting. We asked State Highway Administration architectural historian Melissa Blair to talk a little bit about her involvement in the project and share some early photos of the Magruder House. Here is her entry:
"Hi! I’ve been an architectural historian at SHA for 5 years. One of my favorite things about the job is partnering with archaeologists on projects and learning about a discipline that I have very little training in. In overly simple terms, architectural historians look at cultural resources above ground level and archaeologists look at cultural resources below ground. Of course there are plenty of resources that don’t fall neatly into one category or the other, such as ruins or cemeteries, and in truth, most historic resources have both an above ground and below ground component – so you would think that archaeologists and architectural historians worked closely together all the time. Sadly, this is not the case. We get trained in separate academic departments, go to different conferences, read different journals, and generally get stuck in the silos of our own disciplines. Because of the structure of our federal historic preservation compliance laws, transportation-related Cultural Resources Management (CRM) is an arena where archeologists and architectural historians do work closely together. It’s a good thing, because ultimately we are all passionate about the past and strive to make history a relevant part of today. We just go about doing so in very different ways.
The Bladensburg project is a great example of integrating archeology and architectural history. All of the digs are happening around buildings that are still standing. The buildings give clues to the archeologists about where to dig, and in turn, the artifacts and features they uncover expand our understanding of the buildings.
All of the buildings that are part of the Bladensburg project (Magruder House, Market Master’s House, George Washington House/Indian Queen Tavern, and Bostwick) are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, all have Maryland Historical Trust preservation easements protecting them, and all are in good to excellent states of preservation. Not bad, considering how little of the rest of Bladensburg’s colonial past remains.
Here are a few historic photos of the Magruder House. The earliest photo we found so far, taken some time around 1900, shows the rear of the house, the area where most of our recent archaeological excavations took place.
A picture from 1922 shows the façade with a gable front entry porch.
By 1936 (the date of the third picture), the porch had been altered and the wood shingles on the roof had been replaced. The last picture, taken around 1989, shows the house after an extensive restoration. Note how the porch and roofing materials have been restored to the earlier appearance.