Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 Field School Prep

We've been very busy in the Archaeology Department this winter, processing artifacts recovered from last summer's field school, finalizing the Chase House report based on the excavations there between 2008 and 2011, and of course preparing for this summer's field school at the Yeaton-Walsh House!

We will be digging around this house in advance of ground disturbance during its rehabilitation through the museum’s Heritage House Program, a program designed to rehabilitate underutilized buildings at Strawbery Banke to provide both rental space and revenue to support museum operations.  Preliminary excavations were carried out around this property during the Strawbery Banke archaeological field school in 2007, and now we will return for a larger scale recovery project.
Based on documentary research of maps, deeds, city directories, and censuses, we already know a lot about who owned this lot in the past.  Thales G. Yeaton bought this property in 1794 as part of a larger, empty, L-shaped lot.  Yeaton split the lot, selling this portion to Joseph Smith in 1803, by which time this house had been built.  The house had many owners over the decades, but its longest residents were an Irish immigrant family who lived here from the 1850s until the early 1900s, first as Leonard Cotton’s tenants, and then as owners of the house.  The house changed hands a few more times in the 20th century before the Portsmouth Housing Authority bought the house during Urban Renewal.
This field school, along with giving us the chance to mitigate the disturbance of rehabilitation projects (i.e. repairing the foundation and digging for new pipes and wiring), will allow us to continue learning about daily life at Puddle Dock.  This small four room house, unlike some of the earlier, grander homes in the neighborhood (e.g. the 18th century Chase House), was built around the turn of the 19th century as a rental property.  The deposits associated with the house will give us the opportunity to learn more about the habits of 19th century tenants, especially the Irish immigrant family who lived here. What did they eat, what did they buy and use, and what did they dispose of?  
A few spots are still open in Session 2 of this summer's field school -- visit our website for more information if you are interested in registration.