Friday, May 29, 2009
The Market Master’s House, also known as the "Ship Ballast House", is situated adjacent to Annapolis Road and Kenilworth Avenue. It is located just to the east of the Magruder house. The building, associated with the earliest period of the town’s development, serves as an important surviving example of eighteenth-century vernacular architecture. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In October of 1742, the Maryland legislature voted to create the town of Bladensburg on the east side of the Anacostia River. As they had done for several of Maryland’s other incorporated towns, lawmakers required a certain amount of investment on the part of those who wished to settle one of the 60 town lots laid out there. New property owners, called “Takers-up” in the bill, were required “within Eighteen Months after taking up … [to] build and finish…one good, substantial, and tenantable House with one Brick or Stone Chimney thereto, that shall cover 400 square Ft of Ground” (Archives of Maryland 2006: 451-452). Takers-up who failed to build in the allotted time would lose their stake and the lot could be resold with proceeds going to the town commissioners.
In 1746, the town commissioners created a geographic anchor for the town by designating lot 37, located a few blocks from the public landing, as a market square. By the revolutionary period, the village was an important port and home to 35 households, including several taverns (e.g. George Washington House/Indian Queen Tavern), merchants (e.g. Market Master’s House), doctors (e.g. Magruder House), and artisans. A tobacco warehouse stood on the market square by the 1780s. While no above-ground remnants of the market square or the nearby market lanes remain, the small house on lot 38, today called the Market Master’s House, remains intact and is listed, with the small parcel of land on which it sits, on the National Register of Historic Places. The building - a stone house with a 500 square-foot footprint and a substantial chimney is representative of the minimum effort specified by the town’s enactment law for takers-up to retain the property.
Here is a resurvey map from 1787 showing the Market Master's Square (shaded lot 37). The Magruder House is located in lot 27, to the west. The lot in between is currently occupied by Kenilworth Avenue:
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
We are looking forward to seeing you there!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
and here is the video. It features some great interviews with Julie and Tara:
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
GPR works by sending electromagnetic pulses underground, which bounce off buried objects like artifact deposits or masonry features. In the video, buried objects, called anomalies, appear as brownish or yellowish blobs. It takes a trained eye to interpret these shapes into meaningful information. Bryan wrote us a report with recommendations for what we should concentrate on in our investigation. At the moment, we are examining the images from the Market Master's House to help plan our excavation. This gives us a chance to look underground before even picking up a shovel!
Here is Bryan's website: http://www.olemiss.edu/research/anthropology/haley/
Monday, May 18, 2009
"Hello, my name is Julie Schablitsky and I manage the Cultural Resources Section at the Maryland State Highway Administration and serve as their Chief Archaeologist. I am originally from Minnesota, but received my master's and doctoral degrees in Oregon. I moved across the country to Maryland about four years ago and have completely fallen in love with the archaeology of this area. I hope that our great team of archaeologists can help discover new information about the people who called Bladensburg home."
Right now we are cleaning and taking inventory of our gear after completing the excavation of the Magruder House. Artifacts have been sent to the lab for washing and analyzing. Meanwhile, historical research is being collected on the three properties we will examining in this project. Additionally, an architectural survey is being compiled. We will add some of this information to future posts.
Friday, May 15, 2009
We also have to go over our paper work and make sure we recorded everything properly. As archaeologists, we are the last people to see the cultural material before destroying its context. What we record and the artifacts that we collect are the only things that future historians and archaeologists have of the work done here."
"Doing urban archaeology is fun, because as you excavate, you can slowly assemble an image of the past landscape, despite all the changes that have occurred over the hundreds of years that the city has existed. It sounds pretty cheesy to describe our square test units as “windows into the past”, but in a very real sense, that is precisely what they are. At Magruder House, we’ve opened up several windows, and we can see a lot from here.
We’ve talked about several of our individual discoveries – we’ve got British half pennies, prehistoric projectile points, the remains of childrens’ toys (dolls, marbles, etc), and of course the usual complement of ceramics, architectural debris, faunal bone, personal items like buttons, pins and thimbles, and a host of other interesting items. It seems appropriate, for the last day of fieldwork, to talk about what it all means. I took a little poll around the site to get a variety of perspectives.
Nichole Sorenson-Mutchie, SHA’s lab director, thinks one of the most interesting outcomes of our excavations is the discovery that people lived here thousands of years ago. The prehistoric site is located near the crest of the hill where the Magruder House is situated. The discovery has led to a detailed understanding of the past landscape. One or two thousand years ago, this sandy little hill was located along the banks of the Anacostia River, and it appears that there may have been a small seasonal camp here, where people hunted with rhyolite projectile points and cooked their food in large ceramic jars.
Nowadays, people can head to the other side of the hill and get spicy fries at the Checkers.
Architectural Historian Melissa Blair finds the Magruder House excavations encouraging from a preservation perspective. She points out that when the State Roads Commission purchased the property in the 1950s, the plan was to demolish the house. Many people who lived in Bladensburg objected, and managed to stop the destruction. Now, 50 years later, the site is being excavated by Maryland State Highways – so this project tells us a lot about the ways big state agencies’ priorities have changed – now we’re working with various community groups to interpret the history of the house, Bladensburg, and the town’s role in the War of 1812. That’s a dramatic shift in perspective!
Archaeologist Susan Peltier enjoyed doing urban archaeology for the first time, and was impressed by the quality and quantity of 18th century artifacts we recovered – especially the gorgeous smorgasbord of 18th century ceramics. We found everything from fancy Chinese teawares to robust European stoneware. We literally had a little bit of everything: scratch blue stoneware, Staffordshire slipware, Chinese porcelain, salt-glazed stonewares, creamware, pearlware – a veritable checklist of diagnostic ceramics from the colonial to the modern.
Many of the other crew members cited the long and complex history of occupation, the exciting and beautiful ceramics, the surprise of finding intact archaeological deposits at all in the middle of such a developed urban landscape, and the challenge of understanding the complex clues to the site’s past as highlights of the experience.
My favorite thing about the Magruder House is the way our various sources of information converge. I tagged along on a tour of the standing house the other day, and got to learn about the ways the residents modified the structure through time in response to shifts in fashion and taste. I see echoes of the same kinds of changes in the artifacts. For example, at one point, the front of the house, which was originally built using hewn fieldstones, was plastered over with stucco to present a smooth, even, and symmetrical façade – very de rigeur in the late 1800s.
In the ground, we found remnants of the most fashionable ceramics from the Georgian era as well – so we know that the residents of the house not only created a dwelling that was positively a la mode, but followed through with the most desirable dishes. These were people who were dressed, housed, and ready to serve guests in style. I like to see these little psychological clues in the archaeological record, and it was very gratifying to see the stamp of a demanding and fashion-savvy personality in the very design of the dwelling.
We even managed to garner a few small clues about the house’s relationship to the Battle of Bladensburg- the British coins, a fragment of a small glass medicine vial – could these items represent a link to the house’s role as a field hospital during the War of 1812? This is another wonderful result of our two weeks of fieldwork – more questions. Hopefully we’ll have as much success in the upcoming fieldwork at the Market Master’s House…"
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I just finished my second day of excavations at the Magruder House. Mayor Walter James stopped by this morning to pay us visit. We showed him some of the artifacts we’ve found over the last two weeks, and explained our field methods. Mayor James hopes to join us in early June when we start excavations at the Market Masters House. We promised him that by the end of a day of digging he would be a pro!
On Tuesday I excavated in the unit farthest from the house, in soil layers dating to the middle eighteenth century. We found many pieces of animal bone in an excellent state of preservation. Once we get back to the lab we’ll be able to figure out what kinds of food the occupants of the Magruder House were serving. We found a wide variety of pottery types dating between 1740 and 1780, during the early occupation of Magruder.
This fall, I’m looking forward to starting excavations at the Bladensburg Battlefield. Although there has been a lot of development in the area where the battle occurred, we hope to find intact remains from the day almost two hundred years ago when British soldiers fought their way into the Nation’s Capital."
Update on the Native American component of the site. Yesterday we found these two bifaces (spear or knife points). They are probably LeCroy bifurcate base points. They are made of metarhyolite, which can be found in Western Maryland. Most people consider them to be Early Archaic, or circa 5,000-7,000 B.C. Bladensburg's archaeological history just extended by about 5000 years!
All over the site we are mapping, photographing and interpreting the profiles of the units we dug before we cover them back up tomorrow. The profiles are the vertical surfaces of the units that show us a cross section of the way the soil has been deposited at the Magruder House.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Hi my name is Tara Giuliano and I work for the State Highway Administrations cultural resource section. I grew up in upstate New York and I received my B.A from the University at Buffalo. I really enjoy working in the field of archaeology and discovering new and exciting things- and I am super excited to be a part of the Bladensburg project!
Hello! My name is Kristen Heasley, and I have been in CRM for three years. I love the excitement of being able to travel and discover fun things in my work. I am especially interested in prehistory, and in the fall will be traveling to the UK to earn my MA from Southampton University in Paleolithic Archaeology and Human Origins.
John Lewis: My interest in Archeology began with a survey course in the mid 70’s. I then went on to the Maritime side after getting certified in Scuba with a course in the Florida Keys about ship construction and exploring Spanish ship wrecks. Moving to Maryland in 1980 gave me the opportunity to join the volunteers working under the guidance of Bruce Thompson. Terrestrial experiences came through participation in the C A T program with Bruce, Jim Gibb, Charles Hall and Julie Schablitsky. I’m currently working the Magruder House site and have been washing and sorting a great variety of artifacts.
Received BA-H Anthropology from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada in 1992 and moved to Utah shortly after. Began CRM in 2004 and have worked in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Moved to Maryland in 2007 and have continued CRM work.
My name is Vincent Shirbach, I am an archaeologist out of Gaithersburg, MD. I have a bachelor’s in History with a concentration in archaeology from Hood College in Frederick, MD. I plan on obtaining a master’s in Cultural Anthropology from one of multiple great institutions in the DC area.
Hello I am Benjamin Stewart from Greenfield Ohio. I graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and have been working as an archaeological field technician for the better part of the past ten years. I am currently a URS employee. I am excited to be part of the excavation of the Magruder and Market Master houses. I have not had the opportunity to work on a late colonial site nor a site associated with a battlefield, and this area has both present.
My name is Michael Roller. I am a graduate student at the University of Maryland, Department of Anthropology and a resident of nearby Riverdale Park. I am working for the State Highway Administration to help organize the public outreach for this project. It has been really interesting to speak with members of the public about their ideas of history, preservation, community and the environment. The Magruder House is a really interesting site because, though it has lots of well known historical figures and events associated with it, there are also thousands of years of human occupation that are a mystery. I also like working here because I can bike to work along the peaceful Anacostia River every morning.
Carol Ebright, a specialist in Native American archaeology from the State Highway Administration came out and examined the potsherds we discovered yesterday. She thinks they are Accokeek grit-tempered sherds and may date to between 900 to 600 BC. (for more info on Accokeek: http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/Prehistoric_Ceramic_Web_Page/Prehistoric%20Ware%20Descriptions/Accokeek.htm) We like to say, "It wasn’t expected, but it is not surprising that this spot was occupied by Native Americans". Actually, a member of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe came out today to view the site and told us that oral history sources indicate dense Native American occupation up and down the Anacostia River, ending at the area around Bladensburg where the Northeast and Northwest Branches split. This is the spot where anadromous fish would swim up and mate, and Native Americans would set up their fishing weirs.
This evening we went to a community networking meeting in the Bladensburg Town Hall. We met mayor Walter James and council members Walter Ficklin and Charlina Watson . The purpose of the meeting was to inspire networking and dialogue between community organizations and businesses. Five of us came out to represent the State Highway Administration and the University of Maryland. We listened to, and spoke with, representatives from local businesses and business development groups, civic organizations, town services, religious organizations and youth training and empowerment groups. Some of these included the Bladensburg Local Development Corporation, Port Towns Community Development Corporation, the Bladensburg Rotary Club, the Bladensburg Police, the Bladensburg Library, the Maryland National Capital Area park and Planning Commission, the Pastoral Lay Council, Choices for Success and the Kiwanis club.
It was a very productive and interesting evening. As part of the public outreach portion of the project we are going to develop an educational curriculum and a traveling display and presentation. Several of the groups we met were interested in having a talk or a presentation given at a meeting. These included a youth organization called Choices for Success that gives youth after school support and study help, the Bladensburg Library, the MNCPPC summer playgrounds program and the Rotary Club.
If you represent an organization in the Bladensburg community and might be interested in having a short talk on our project, perhaps later in the summer please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomorrow, back to the archaeology. Only three more days left at the Magruder House. In June we will start work on the Market Master’s Square and House. I can't wait to see what comes out of those features tommorow!"
Monday, May 11, 2009
I thought I would talk about some of the early period ceramics we washed today. The first is feather edge creamware. It’s a cream colored earthenware with raised feather-like molding. Creamware in general was mostly used for tablewares during the second half of the 18th century. The decoration helps us date it further to around 1765.
Another example of early ceramics is called English Brown stoneware. It is a thicker, utilitarian ceramic used for bottles and drinking vessels. Artifacts of this type can be found in America from about 1690 to 1775.
Other ceramics pictured are tin glazed earthenware, scratch blue stoneware, and shell edged pearlware. To learn more about early ceramics found in Maryland, visit: http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/Index.htm. Different artifact types pictured which are made of ceramic/clay but not used in the kitchen/dining room are bisque porcelain doll parts and ball clay pipe stems."
Elsewhere on the site, we found some ceramics of an earlier era. Two large sherds of Native American pottery. One looks like it has the impression of a net or fabric impressed on it, and the other has the impression of cording. Here is a picture of them. Once we learn a bit more about them we will share it with you:
Saturday, May 9, 2009
This photo shows the diversity of materials coming out of the units. This is the kind of data we archaeologists love!
Friday, May 8, 2009
And here is a narrative from field staff Jenn Babiarz:
"I was out here working on Tuesday when we first started exploring the archeology of the site and today we are really beginning to understand some of the landscape changes that have been occurring over the last few hundred years. Part of what makes urban archaeology so interesting is its complexity; people in the past were very imaginative with their use of space in a small area, particularly in how they combined or separated their work and living spaces.
Today we’ve found 20th century fill in the back yard on top of some historic living surfaces. Some of the artifacts we found include clay marbles, butchered bone (you can even see the saw marks from where they cut it!), pipe stem, lighting glass, the base of a bottle made with a snap case mold (a late 19th century technology), and lots of kinds of ceramics. Not to mention lots of brick, mortar and nails! Most of the ceramic and glass was broken up pretty small, which is typical for what archaeologists call yard scatter. Yard scatter is the little pieces of trash that end up in yard living and work areas that get missed during sweeping and that get walked on daily (and therefore getting broken up into small pieces)".
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The house itself has its roots in the 18th century, and has maintained importance in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. George Washington even stopped by for a visit way back when! As such, we are looking for a chronological variety of artifacts, but for our purposes here, we are hoping to find war relics. American troops used this house as a hospital, so we are searching for evidence like buttons, equipment, medical supplies, etc. So far, one unidentified button has been recovered close to the house. I’m hoping we’ll be able to uncover a plethora once most of the test units are put in. So far we’ve just begun, who knows what we’ll find out here!!!”