Summer Field Crew Update: Wilson Road Realignment

For much of this summer the CAP field crew was busy surveying the area surrounding the East neighborhood (Akers, Fee, Hubbard, Conrad).  Beginning in March 2018 Wilson road will be altered, creating an additional exit onto Hagadorn, a traffic light on Shaw, as well as additional parking.

Wilson road extension planning. Image source

Wilson road extension planning. Image source.

The areas highlighted in green will all be changed/impacted by the construction. CAP had not previously excavated in this area so we were excited to see what was there.

Closeup from Michigan State University Land Acquisition map c. 1966. Source: MSU

Closeup from Michigan State University Land Acquisition map c. 1966. Source: MSU Library

Historically this area was part of the Biebesheimer farm.  The Biebesheimer family lived in the Ingham county area since the late 1860s (Adams 1923:379). A majority of the farm was sold to Michigan Agricultural College in 1925. However, the Biebesheimer and Roney (Mary Biebesheimer’s married name was Roney) families retained a portion of the original farm until the 1950’s. During the years the family owned/worked this farm land they uncovered several important prehistoric and contact era archaeological artifacts. The artifacts have been donated to the MSU museum and are housed in the Paul S. Roney collection.

The construction of the river trail neighborhood (McDonel, Owen, Shaw, Van Hoosen) and east neighborhood began in the mid 1960s (although the grouping of these buildings into neighborhoods is a much more recent university initiative).  So although these buildings, roads, and parking lots of a much more recent timeframe than the areas of campus we are typically called upon to investigate, it is important to remember that we are also charged with preserving and documenting the entire history of the area. So we set out to determine if anything prior to the campus development remained undisturbed. We were looking for signs of both the farm and prehistoric sites.

So we conducted a survey and excavated shovel test pits along the entire green highlighted area in the above map. A shovel test pit is a hole, typically dug by a shovel, that is roughly 2 times the width of the shovel head with a goal of a 1 meter depth.

CAP field crew excavates shovel test pits in IM East field.

CAP field crew excavates shovel test pits in IM East field.

Jeff and Autumn Painter document a shovel test pit in the IM East field along Wilson road.

Jeff and Autumn Painter document a shovel test pit in the IM East field along Wilson road.

Jeff and Autumn Painter excavate a test pit in front of Conrad Hall.

Jeff and Autumn Painter excavate a test pit in front of Conrad Hall.

Becca Albert and Jasmine Smith excavate a test pit in the Vet Med field.

Becca Albert and Jasmine Smith excavate a test pit in the Vet Med field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field crew excavate test pits in the IM East field.

The field crew excavate test pits in the IM East field.

Autumn and Jeff Painter excavate a test pit between lot 32 and the tennis courts.

Autumn and Jeff Painter excavate a test pit between lot 32 and the tennis courts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field crew dug 312 shovel test pits for the Wilson road realignment.  Unfortunately much of the area was comprised of highly compact soil, resulting in some difficult conditions for the field crew.  Additionally, only 90 of the test pits had any cultural material (artifacts).  Most of which were recent objects near the top third of the test pit.  The most surprising elements were probably the animals the crew encountered.

A pesky woodchuck infiltrates the field site.

A pesky woodchuck infiltrates the field site.

Autumn Painter got to meet a horse being treated by the MSU Large Animal Clinic.

Autumn Painter got to meet a horse being treated by the MSU Large Animal Clinic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What these weeks of hard work tell us is that the area is highly disturbed.  Any intact deposits are likely much deeper than we could get with the test pits.  It’s also important to remember that the absence of artifacts also tells the specific story of that area.  Once construction begins in March 2018 we will monitor the parking lot and road demolition, and likely excavate additional test pits once the ground surfaces have been removed.

 

Sources:

Adams, Franc L. Pioneer History of Ingham County Volume 1 Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Company: Lansing Michigan. 1923

 

 

 

Excavating behind Old Hort

We had a busy summer here at CAP. We were able to excavate at some interesting and important places such as the Abbott Entrance and Beals first botanical lab. Our last project area for the summer was behind the Old Horticulture building on north campus. IPF was planning to repave part of the Lot #7 parking lot, so we thankfully had time in the schedule to begin investigating in that area to better prepare us for what we might encounter.

Although this area is a green (at the right time of year) field popular for tailgating this space has had many different identities. CAP had done some investigations in this general area before, when we surveyed the Old Botany greenhouse before its demolition, however we had never surveyed the area directly south of Old Horticulture. Since the opening of campus this area served three main purposes: 1. Farm/barn area, 2. Detention Hospitals, and 3. Experimental Greenhouse.

View of farm area and barns taken from atop the Dairy Building - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

View of farm area and barns taken from atop the Dairy Building – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Prior to the early 1900s this area contained a horse barn, dairy/cattle barn, grain barn, horticultural barn, miscellaneous small buildings, grazing/animal pen areas, as well as at least two residential buildings for farm employees.  Some of these buildings were demolished or moved to make way to the building of the Dairy and other buildings.

Detention Hospitals with Horticultural Barn visible in right corner - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Detention Hospitals with Horticultural Barn visible in right corner – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Showing Detention Hospitals (52-55) and the Horticulture Barn (57) - Images Source: MSU Map Library

1915 Campus Map Showing Detention Hospitals (52-55) and the Horticulture Barn (57) – Images Source: MSU Map Library

In 1908, to better meet the public health needs of the growing university, four Detention (aka Quarantine) Hospitals were built.  These cottages were demolished in 1923 to make room for the Horticulture building.  At that same time a large greenhouse was erected that was used for experimental work on flowers and vegetables.

View of Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

View of Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse were built in 1925.  Though Old Horticulture remains today, the Greenhouse was demolished in the late 1990s since it had fallen in disrepair.

We started a series of shovel test pits in the area, wondering if we would be able to find evidence for the past uses of this area. Unfortunately we were quickly faced with obstacles as the soil was dry and incredibly compact, slowing our progress. However, we soon found ample evidence from the campus greenhouse. We are still working on washing and cataloging everything, but we uncovered terra-cotta pot fragments, water pipes, plant tags, and plant material.

STPs behind Old Hort - Image Source Lisa Bright

STPs behind Old Hort – Image Source Lisa Bright

Jack Biggs uses a mattock to dig in the compact soil. Image Source Lisa Bright

Jack Biggs uses a mattock to dig in the compact soil. Image Source Lisa Bright

Becca Albert and Jack Biggs remove a large piece of water pipe - Image Source Lisa Bright

Becca Albert and Jack Biggs remove a large piece of water pipe – Image Source Lisa Bright

Artifacts including a salt glazed brick, plant tag, flower pot fragment, and snickers wrapper.

Artifacts including a salt glazed brick, plant tag, flower pot fragment, and snickers wrapper.

The extreme compactness of the dirt, as well as the overall depth of the material, which required unit expansion, meant we only completed a few rows of stps/units.  Perhaps in the future we will be able to return and continue to look for evidence of the detention hospitals and farm buildings.

Day of Archaeology: A BUSY SUMMER FOR MSU CAMPUS ARCHAEOLOGY

Day of archaeology

Today is the 2016 Day of Archaeology.  The goal of the Day of Archaeology project is to provide a window into the varied lives of archaeologists around the world.  You can see our contribution at: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/summer-msu-campus-archaeology/

Head on over and check it out.  You can browse all of the posts, or view by theme such as Historical Archaeology, or Digital Archaeology.

CAP Summer Work Update #2

Since we last checked in we’ve had a busy week and a half.  The Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project is coming to a close, so we’ve been able to finish work there and move onto testing other research questions.

U.S. Weather Bureau 

Although the rejuvenation construction was not directly impacting the north west corner of the Abbot entrance, I wanted to conduct a survey in this area so that we could consider the entire west side of the road surveyed.  The NW corner was home to the U.S. Weather Bureau.  The building was constructed in 1909 and demolished in 1948.  Dewey Seeley and his family occupied the building, while Mr. Seeley recorded daily weather data and provided forecasts for the area. As the campus, and East Lansing, grew around the Weather Bureau Mr. Seeley complained about the encroachment near the bureau.  He petitioned the federal government for the construction of a new weather bureau in a different location, and a new structure was built by the federal government on land leased by the college. That building is today known as the Wills House, located just west of Mayo Hall.  From 1927-1940 the old bureau building served as the music center, from 1940 to approx. 1943 it was the Works Progress Administration Headquarter, and finally the Placement Center until its destruction in 1948.

U.S. Weather Bureau - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collections

U.S. Weather Bureau – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collections

The bureau was demolished by George Boone of Jackson MI, who paid the college $400 to remove the building.  Because Mr. Boone paid the college, rather than being paid by them, our investigation sought to discover how much of the weather bureau remained after he salvaged/scrapped the building.

Excavations at site of old U.S. Weather Bureau

Excavations at site of old U.S. Weather Bureau

We were unable to locate any intact foundation walls or floors.  However, a dense layer of rubble does cover that entire area.  Artifacts were mostly building related including bricks, nails, roofing slate, and concrete.  One curious artifact category were bricks made out of concrete, something we had not encountered before.  Two of the concrete bricks were sent to Civil Engineering for inspection.

Wall hanging cross found at U.S. Weather Bureau location

Wall hanging cross found at U.S. Weather Bureau location.

Lansing State Journal

While we were excavating the weather bureau a reporter from the Lansing State Journal came by to write a story on CAP.  We even made it on the cover of the journal!  The complete article, along with a short video, can be found on the journal’s website.

CAP in the Lansing State Journal

CAP in the Lansing State Journal

Beal’s Botanical Laboratory 

Beal's first Botanical Laboratory - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Beal’s first Botanical Laboratory – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

The location of Beal’s first botanical laboratory is marked with a large historical plaque.  We did some brief investigations in this area in 2009 or 2010, but aside from probing have just assumed that the building foundation was still present.  Earlier this week we opened three 1×1 units on the eastern edge of the grassy area to determine the extent of the foundations/artifact presence.  We were also trying to determine the orientation of the building.

 

Our excavations were exploratory in nature, and we limited the disturbance to three units.  One unit appears to be outside the extent of the buildings footprint, but two units located walls.

Excavations at Beal's Botanical Laboratory

Excavations at Beal’s Botanical Laboratory

Unit one locate a large field stone wall just below the modern ground surface.  This wall section ran almost due N/S (4 degrees), and was 80 cm in total height.  The wall was surrounded by sterile fill sand, most likely a builders trench from the construction of the building.  Interestingly, although this unit had melted glass, they did not have a burn layer.

Beal's Lab Excavations Unit One

Beal’s Lab Excavations Unit One

Unit two located a smaller, possibly interior, wall made of medium size cobbles with a mortar layer on top.  On one side of the wall was sterile fill sand, while the other side had a larger rubble and burn layer.  This unit also encountered large amounts of burned and cracked glass, as well as hand cut square nails.

Beal's Lab Excavation Unit Two

Beal’s Lab Excavation Unit Two

Finding these two walls, as well as discussing the presence of a third known wall with people that work in the Beal Botanical Garden, helps us better understand the orientation and current state of the structure.

Sources:

Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes October 21st, 1948: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-43F/meeting-minutes-october-21-1948/

 

Campus Archaeology Summer Work Update #1

Spring classes have ended, thousands of people have graduated, and a relative calm has spread over the campus. While many people kick back and relax over their summer vacation, this is the busy season for us here at CAP. During the summer we’re busy excavating, researching, and conducting lab work. It may seem like much of our work is tied to campus construction (which does take up a chunk of our summers), but there’s so much more that we do. The construction job monitoring, shovel test pits, pedestrian surveys, and research fuels many of our projects all year long. It’s also the time when we put much of the research our CAP graduate fellows have been working on to the test.

The past three weeks we have been excavating and surveying the Abbot Entrance area ahead of the landscaping rejuvenation project that began on the 25th. I talked about a bit of the history of the Abbot Road entrance in my post about the campus streetcar. We knew that we were going to be working in the area of several historic buildings, namely Faculty Row House #6, Station Terrace, the Y.M.C.A. (formerly the campus hospital), and the U.S. Weather Bureau. We still have more work to do in the area in the coming weeks, but we have uncovered some exciting things since work began!

Campbell/Landon Sidewalk Realignment

Our first area of priority was the sidewalk realignment at the southwest corner of Abbot Road and West Circle Drive. Although we didn’t encounter anything related to the structure of Faculty Row House #6, or the Old Trolley waiting room, we did locate an old sidewalk. Now I know what you’re thinking, a sidewalk, big deal! But this is still a part of the historic campus landscape. Artifacts near the sidewalk, including a carbon battery rod, pipe stem, butchered animal bone, and ceramics indicate an early 1900s date. Part of the sidewalk was removed and is being sent to the Civil Engineering department for testing. This will help them to understand changes in cement/concrete technology over time.

CAP crew works excavating the sidewalk feature

CAP crew works excavating the sidewalk feature

The early 1900s sidewalk, partially uncovered.

The early 1900s sidewalk, partially uncovered.

Abbot Road Median

Stone wall from Station Terrace basementNext we moved to the Abbot entrance median. Landscape services planned to remove diseased non-native trees, and return the area to a more historically accurate planting scheme. Following what has become a yearly tradition, we found a building, Station Terrace to be exact! Our final shovel test pit for the median located the top of a stone and mortar wall. We believe this to be a basement interior-dividing wall. On the east side of the wall were two large decommissioned pipes, as well as two layers of charcoal and debris. The east unit’s stratigraphy was not disturbed at all, so these pipes appear to be original to the building, or at least installed before the foundation was filled in after the building was moved in 1925. To the west of the wall was a layer of larger boulders covering a poured concrete floor. I believe that the boulders were added as fill. Although we only opened a small area we found many wonderful artifacts, including a complete waterman’s ink bottle, a complete Sanford Library Paste jar (used to mount photographs), and a pair of shoes!

Sanford Library Paste jar, Pat. 1915 from East Station Terrace Unit

Sanford Library Paste jar, Pat. 1915 from East Station Terrace Unit

Additional investigation into this area, at some time in the future, will be necessary to determine how much of the building currently exists subsurface. Although Station Terrace appears on several maps, some of the older ones are not the most spatially accurate, and the surrounding landscape is drastically changed today. However, one 1926 map has the beginning of the north and south bound lanes of Abbot, leading me to believe that the eastern third of the building lies under the media, with the rest is under the road and west Abbot sidewalk area.

The Summer 2016 Field Screw after completing Station Terrace STP

The Summer 2016 Field Crew after completing Station Terrace STP

Next week we will be continuing exploration of the Abbot road entrance, focusing on the northwest corner where the U.S. Weather Bureau stood from 1910-1948. Stay tuned for updates, and follow us on Twitter and Instragram (@capmsu) for updates from the field!

From the Archives: Jenison Field House

Bethany and Josh digging around Jenison Fieldhouse

Bethany and Josh digging around Jenison Fieldhouse

Earlier this summer, the Campus Archaeology team surveyed the green spaces behind Jenison Fieldhouse, next to the Red Cedar. We weren’t finding much, just the occasional nail or piece of glass, but regardless, we still wanted to know more about the building and the land around it. So with quite a few research goals in mind, we all took a trip to MSU’s Archives and Historical Collections to do some digging around.

The fieldhouse was built in 1939, opened in 1940, and was named the Frederick Cowles Jenison Fieldhouse, after the alumnus who willed his entire estate to the university. The Jenison Estate along with funds from the Public Works Administration, were used to fund the construction. Jenison Fieldhouse housed the men’s basketball team until 1989 when it was moved to the Breslin Center, today it houses the women’s volleyball, gymnastics, wrestling, and indoor track and field teams as well as the administrative offices for the Athletic Department. The fieldhouse was built on an open field south of the Red Cedar, and northwest of Demonstration Hall. It cost more than $1,100,000, and at the time of its opening was perhaps the finest building of its kind in the world.

Jenison Fieldhouse, 1940, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

Jenison Fieldhouse, 1940, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

It originally featured several handball, shuffle board, and table tennis courts, numerous locker and equipment rooms, offices, a swimming pool, fencing, dancing, and wrestling rooms, as well as a gymnasium and running track all within the building.  North of the fieldhouse there were two regulation size baseball diamonds, to the west of those was a large golf practice green, and immediately south of Jenison’s south entrance was an archery range. Jenison Fieldhouse has undergone a series of renovations since then, including replacing the golf green and archery range with parking lots. The most recent large scale renovation was in 2003, which is how it is seen today.

The reason we went to dig at Jenison Fieldhouse was that there a few patches of sidewalks that were being replaced and we needed to shovel test pit underneath the old sidewalks before the new ones were laid down. We were also going to survey the remaining green space around the parking lots and near the river that hadn’t been done during previous surveys of the area. We started out surveying the green space in the morning; we set up a grid and had upwards of 15 test pits to dig.

MSC Golf Team 1931, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

MSC Golf Team 1931, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

Aside from a number of large rocks and troublesome tree roots, the test pits were relatively empty. Like I mentioned before, we found the usual scatter of miscellaneous artifacts, some nails, tiny ceramic sherds, bits of metal, and a few pieces of glass. But we did find something that at the time seemed unusual, a golf ball. It was certainly an unexpected find, but after a foray into the Archive’s collections we were able to put it into context. The ball was a Titleist, and the only markings on it were the words “Titleist 2.” The dimples were also larger than most of the golf balls we see currently, which led us to believe it might be an older ball. After some online research we found out that Titleist golf balls have been around since 1930, and that combined with our new knowledge of the golf green that is now a parking lot to the west of the building, the same parking lot we were surveying next to, led to a better understanding of why we had found a golf ball in such a seemingly wrong location. So with a little research and the help of the MSU Archive’s staff, we were able to fit the golf ball we pulled out of the ground into Jenison’s historical context.

Preserving MSU’s Past, One Sidewalk at a Time.

Summer 2013 has provided MSU’s campus community with many changes. While students are partaking in various summer activities away from campus, MSU has push forwarded with various construction projects to revamp an aging campus infrastructure. Returning students in the fall may not recognize parts of the campus that they left in the spring. In particular, campus north of the Red Cedar has been subjected to various projects throughout these spring and summer months. This means that MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program has been out in full force ensuring that MSU’s rich historical past is preserved and to make sure that we mitigate any potential damage.

Shovel testing near Saints Rest, via Katy Meyers

Shovel testing near Saints Rest, via Katy Meyers

On this particular day, we found ourselves working on around fifteen shovel test pits, while monitoring and documenting the continued demolition of Morrill Hall. The area we focused on was a small grass triangle formed by sidewalk borders that were due to be taken up in the next week for reconstruction. This location was of importance to us due to the proximity it had with both the original dorm, Saint’s Rest, and the second dorm, Old Williams Hall. The area of interest is located next to the MSU Museum and the MSU Museum parking lot. The modern day grass triangle is located to southeast of where the Old Williams Hall existed and to the southwest of where Saint’s Rest existed. A potential prime spot for historical artifact concentrations.

Our initial shovel tests (STs) began closes to the east part of the museum and its parking lot, or the west part of the triangle. Most of our test pits showed regular stratigraphy and small or no artifact densities. As we moved to the east of the triangle, closer to Saint’s Rest, we began encountering higher artifact densities. Our test pits closes to Saint’s Rest provided interesting finds. One test pit provided evidence of animal butchering, while another had a high enough concentration of whiteware, stoneware, pipe pieces, and glass that we decided that we should open it up to a one meter by one meter test unit.

Artifacts found from ST near Saints Rest, via Katy Meyers

Artifacts found from ST near Saints Rest, via Katy Meyers

As we dug the test unit, the concentration of artifacts began to wane. This high concentration was only present in the A horizon and the very top of the B horizon. Once we made our way through this artifact concentration we came upon some unique, linear soil lines. One line, separated the north third of the unit from the middle third. The north third of the unit was the natural B horizon, a dark orange loam. This was right next to the middle third of the unit, which was a light tan fill. The south third of the unit was the same as the middle third but had been mostly removed by the original STP. This strange anomaly left us contemplating what might have caused this. Original thoughts were that prior excavations had all ready happened in this area. Why would there be such a distinct, linear line?

Distinct soil difference in the test unit, via Katy Meyers

Distinct soil difference in the test unit, via Katy Meyers

As the modern day archaeologists that we are, we decided to turn to Twitter to see if our follow archaeologists could help us solve this mystery. With the help of past Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock, we were able to determine that the light tan fill of the middle third and south third of the unit was likely due to a backhoe, presumably for a utility trench. To make sure that we were not dealing with a feature of a different kind, we put in test pits about half a meter to the north and south of our test unit. Both of these units had little to no artifact densities, as well as a natural stratigraphy. These final two STP’s helped support the idea that the soil lines in the test unit we were dealing with were due to a utility line disturbance.