||After about half of the field season
we've now excavated most of the well that once sat behind the home at 444
Agnes Street, much of a pit at 452 Agnes is complete, and we have
uncovered the top of the two-story outhouse at 458-460 Agnes Street.
The two-story outhouse has just been uncovered, and we'll begin digging
the nearly eight-feet square brick-lined pit this week. Here are
some of the things we've found so far.
||The well at 444 Agnes Street
likely sat under the back porch of the very slender home built in the
1890's. The well appears to have been filled quite quickly, probably
just after World War II, and it contains typical household trash from the
period: broken bottles, some plates, food remains (ranging from pig
to groundhog, raccoon, and chipmunk), and a scatter of things like a charm bracelet and a
medallion from the 1927 American Legion convention in Paris.
||Left (click on
thumbnail for larger picture): this chamber pot proclaimed itself
"The Smallest," and at less than an inch in diameter the
Japanese-produced curio is indeed quite miniscule.
||Left (thumbnail): this small dog appears to have been
from a bracelet.
|Above: Jennifer hands up a
young pig's pelvis from the well.
This now well-worn bronze souvenir came from the 444 Agnes Street
well. The American Legion was formed by Congress in 1919 as a
wartime veteran's organization, which by chance is based here in
Indianapolis. In 1927 the Legion's annual Convention met in
Paris. A veteran likely secured this bronze souvenir coin in France
at the September convention. It is not yet clear how the coin
eventually found its way into our well: a household member may have
been a veteran at the Convention, but it may have come into the household
through a wide range of paths. The coin is 20 years older than most
of the well fill, which suggests that the object had some personal or
idiosyncratic importance that led somebody to keep it for two decades
after the convention. We hope to find out soon if any household
members were World War I veterans who might have attended the Paris
(thumbnail): the Agnes Street legion medal originally looked like
||Left: this roughly three-bv-four
foot pit sits at the end of a laid brick sidewalk in the back yard of 452
Agnes Street, and we are not exactly certain what it might be. The
pit has numerous thin layers of coal ash and refuse that suggest it was
filled in a series of distinct episodes, most of which appear to post-date
1930. Wood remnants along the walls and in the corners suggest it
was wood-lined. We have excavated half the pit to about three feet
deep (so we can see the soil stratigraphy layers of the pit in
cross-section), and it now has large wood plank fragments and a dense
deposit of very small animal bones. We should soon be digging the
other half, but we're not quite sure exactly how it was being used.
The pit is located in the appropriate place for a privy, but this is not a
typical privy shape in Indianapolis. If you have the answer, we're
eager to hear it.
(thumbnail): Todd holds up a glass piggy bank from the pit feature.
(thumbnail): The yellow arrows point to the nearly eight-feet square brick
foundations of the two-story Agnes Street privy.
||Howard Fieber's 1941 photo of the
two-story Agnes Street privy is well-known on the IUPUI campus, and the
notion of a two-story outhouse is pretty interesting, so plenty of folks
are interested in the two-story outhouse that we uncovered June 6th.
Two-story privies are relatively uncommon pieces of architecture that were
typically constructed for densely settled contexts like hotels or boarding
houses. The double at 458-460 Agnes Street was a two-story home
subdivided into four household spaces, so that many people--20 people were
sometimes living in this home--would have demanded more than a single-seat
The privy foundations looked like this when the surface was cleaned.
We should post more information on the excavation's
findings in the next week or two, so check back for more details or drop the
excavation site at the corner of Michigan Street and University Boulevard.
For more on the dig, email Paul Mullins
or visit the IUPUI
News Center Press release or Indianapolis
Star article on the project.
Outhouse photograph courtesy IUPUI
University Library Special Collections and Archives.
Last updated June 12, 2003