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Mike holds a freshly excavated German mineral water bottle

During the past week we've learned more about the two homes at 915-917 North California Street.  Some of this came from new artifact finds like the German mineral water bottle Mike Willever is holding at left, and some came from the gradual process of digging more units and piecing together stratigraphy across the site. 

Right:  As field school students dig beside them, Lula Emile-Baxter (center) and Helen E. Lewis (right) talk to Indiana University's Communications Assistant to the President Susan Moke (far left).  Mrs. Emile-Baxter and Mrs. Lewis grew up in the home that once stood at 917 North California Street.  Their father Philip Emile, Sr. (1875-1963) purchased the home by the 1930's. 
Like most homes in the near-Westside, the two houses at 915 and 917 were constantly being modified:  most homes in the near-Westside were rather small, but they changed as children were born, guests or boarders arrived, and families needed more room to house their things.  Consequently, some of our research is focused on simply examining how a house reflects such life cycles:  archaeology, primary records like maps, and oral history allows us to date such changes with a great deal of precision, and with this information we can examine the connections between architectural changes and specific families' experiences.
calcellarcut.jpg (100728 bytes)(Click on the thumbnail to the left for a larger image) The thumbnail above shows the foundation cut for the home at 915 North California Street.  The arrows in the excavation profile show a division between very light and dark soil where it appears that the original construction crew dug down to place the foundation along the rear wall of the home.  The dark soil has artifacts in it that should allow us to date this fill soil; the lighter soil had almost no artifacts, except around that pipe, which appears to have been a drain pipe that came down off the rear of the home.
1898 North CaliforniaRight:  the thumbnailed excavation profile above is likely along the rear wall of the home shown here in an 1898 Sanborn insurance map.  Compare the size of the home in 1898 to its size in 1940 (on the right), by when it had been expanded well into the side yard up to the lot line. 1940 915 North CaliforniaLeft:  In 1940, the once-modest home had been significantly expanded into the side yard; the light red rectangle in this picture is the home's original block built in the 1870's.  The red arrow indicates about where we think the cellar cut was made.  We have expanded this original unit in each direction, hoping to find the walls and construction debris associated with the home's modifications over nearly a century.
The Back Yard
Back yards typically do not yield may artifacts from the spaces that are heavily trafficked.  Most near-Westside house lots front onto the street or have very small front yard spaces, so many households used their back yards very intensively for gardens, small animals, various household labors (e.g., laundresses often washed in yards), and to build onto their home--some homes extended nearly to the alley in the most extreme examples.  As we were excavating the yard we did hit some very heavily compacted soil layers with only a few small artifacts, which seems typical of a well-used yard.  But we also found much deeper deposits associated with a pipe trench, including the horseshoe to the right.  The unit continued to have a modest quantity of early artifacts, including some mid-nineteenth century ceramics, down to the pipe itself.
calshoe.jpg (29387 bytes)Right (thumbnail): A horseshoe from the yard.
calpipetm.jpg (30522 bytes)Right:  Tom peers into the ever-deepening pipe cut.
Right:  In 1948, Colgate heralded the introduction of Veto Cream Deodorant, which promised to say no to offending odor.  This tin lid and milk glass container--long empty--was recovered in the yard of the house at 917 North California. Veto container and ad
You can volunteer too, and after the field school there's still plenty of stuff to do:  if you're interested in digging, doing research, or have other questions about the project, just email me at

Aidan cuts into the builder's trench

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Last updated June 6, 2002