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Plate excavated on California Street We have now been digging almost two weeks and have excavated where the home once stood at 915 California Street, as well as in the back yard and along the alley line.  The house apparently had a cellar, since a deep backfilled deposit containing an iron stove sits there today.  The backyard is filled with small artifacts, which is what we usually expect in yard space.  A series of outbuildings have stood in the yard over nearly a century, and we may also have found some artifacts associated with those structures:  these could have been sheds, cisterns, or outhouses, among other possibilities.  This will take a while to analyze, but here is some of what we've found so far.


The 915 California Street cellar
One of the first units was placed where insurance maps show the house standing:  we wondered if the home had a cellar or crawl space that might hold artifacts that either were lost while people lived here or got discarded when the house was torn down.  The 1941 insurance map (right) shows roughly where this first unit was placed--since lot lines change over time and street and alley widths shift as well, its not always easy to place the first units accurately.

Right: The cellar unit was placed roughly where the red square appears on this 1941 insurance map.  Compare this house shape with the one in the 1898 map below.

1941 Map of Project Area
calcellar1.jpg (56213 bytes) calcellar2.jpg (65562 bytes) Right: In 1898, the home at 915 California Street was somewhat smaller than it became by 1941, when the map above was made.  1898 map of project area
Above (click on either thumbnail for a larger image): The unit placed within the house quickly revealed a dense layer of architectural debris like flooring, boards, and nails.  In the midst of it was a very large iron object:  the picture above left shows the unit on May 22, and the picture on the right shows the unit on the 23rd.  By the 23rd it was clear that the iron object was a stove.  We don't really know when it was discarded here, but it likely was after World War II.
Expanding the cellarRight:  Kari, Brenda, and Dan are expanding the cellar unit here so they can dig around the immovable stove. Brenda talking to visitors
calcelmarble.jpg (49577 bytes)Left (thumbnail):  Most of the cellar fill is architectural debris, but this marble was amongst the fill. Above:  Brenda shows the cellar unit to the neighbors.
Jamesy et al digging in the yard The back yards
Back yards often have thin layers of artifacts that were lost or discarded into the yard, and the California Street yards have typical layers of coal ash and tiny artifacts like food refuse.  Unfortunately, a six-inch layer of  compacted gravel was poured recently to level the surface, and it now covers the site directly beneath the grass:  breaking through this is a little unpleasant.

Left: Jamesy, Josh, Candice, and Kelly dig in a yard unit near the back of the yard.

calyard3.jpg (45340 bytes)Left (thumbnail):  Tom breaks the surface in the back yard. calyard2.jpg (47717 bytes)Right (thumbnail): Carla and Beth dig through the cursed gravel layer.
At least one area in the yard has denser deposits of nearly whole artifacts.  Small shovel-sized test units were dug in the yard to identify artifacts or unusual soil deposits, and one of those uncovered this plate (thumbnailed right), which lay in four fragments. calyardplate.jpg (96790 bytes)
Right (thumbnail): This tumbler was in the same unit as the plate pictured above.  Large fragments like this are not typical in open yard space, suggesting this may be within a relatively undisturbed artifact deposit. calyardtumb.jpg (50138 bytes) calcat.jpg (56881 bytes) Left (thumbnail): This now headless ceramic cat figurine was among the larger fragments in the yard deposits.

Check back over the Summer for project updates.  If you would like to visit the site before June 19 or have any questions, email me at

Link to June 1 Field School Report

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Updated June 2, 2002