||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.
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.
In 1898, the home at 915 California Street was somewhat smaller than it
became by 1941, when the map above was made.
(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.
Kari, Brenda, and Dan are expanding the cellar unit here so they can dig
around the immovable stove.
(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.
||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.
(thumbnail): Tom breaks the surface in the back yard.
(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
|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.
||Left (thumbnail): This now
headless ceramic cat figurine was among the larger fragments in the yard
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
Updated June 2, 2002