Uncategorized

Holiday Gifts for Good

I was inspired by The Accidental Preservationist’s Holiday Guide to Gifts that Give Back – Supporting Historic Preservation in Charleston, SC. I absolutely love gifts that give back. The older I get, the less “stuff” I want, and I’m also trying to pass non-materialistic values onto my four-year-old. So here’s a mix of preservation and history gifts that support good causes while being pretty awesome gifts (because everyone wants a little something). 

My favorite gifts are books, both to give and receive. I’m the uncool mom who always gifts books.  My son is getting four books for his birthday today (Happy Birthday sweetie!). I bought two of these books through a Scholastic program at his school, where every order gets free books for the school. I also bought for his friend’s upcoming birthday and Christmas. 

For the adults, Savannah Square by Square is a beautiful coffee table book authored by Michael Jordan and Mick McCay with photography and art by Les Wilkes, Phil Hodgkins, and Constance McCay. Original art work from the book is currently on display and prints are available for purchase. See the image below for details. (Full disclosure, Michael is a friend. Also check out his Hidden History of Civil War Savannah and excellent and surprisingly funny read). 

I know, Amazon is easy, but I encourage you to look into local Museum Shops. Again, these shops are the best places to find a selection of local books. Davenport House and Wormsloe Historic Site immediately spring to mind for great books selections. Museum Shops often have great presents for all price levels and people, and you don’t have to pay admission to browse. Have a Girl Scout in your life? Look at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. Military member of the family? How about the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force? Perhaps you have an Uncle Gary who is a twenty year veteran of the Mighty Eighth. No? Just me then. The Mighty Eighth even has an online shop

Dr. Pressly’s extensive history on Savannah’s economy and Caribbean connections. Below is Helen Rountree’s “Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough” that I bought at Jamestown during a 2007 trip.

“I like my history Black, hold the sugar”. Joseph McGill’s Slave Dwelling Project more than educates people, it transforms lives by allowing for real conversations about history and slavery. Support this amazing cause with this cheeky t-shirt

Membership to a museum or historic site also makes a great gift. My son’s grandparents are renewing his membership to Oatland Island Wildlife Center, because he loves walking the trails with his little friends. And picking up lots of sticks along the way. Here is a partial list of the museums in the greater Savannah area. Most offer membership at various levels, and you can always add an extra donation! Historic Savannah Foundation is a venerable preservation organization with cool membership benefits (admission to the Davenport House, an invite to the gala!). Another good option is the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. (See my post about how supporting farmers benefits preservation.) Being a Friend of the Market gets you a Vendor of the Week discount, the newsletter, and Invitations to Farm Tours. Joining at the family level also gets you a colorful market tote bag, which people want to buy but it’s only available to Friends, and the Market-to-Table Recipe book with contributions by market friends and famers. (Full disclosure, I am on the Board of the Forsyth Farmers’ Market). 

Please consider buying local and supporting preservation and archaeology. I hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season. 

PS If you want to get me something, write letters to your city and county  officials and tell them you support archaeology. Demand an archaeology ordinance and a city/county archaeologist! 

Backyard History

Hull Park: Backyard History

Recently on three separate occasions, people spontaneously shared their personal Hull Park history. Twice, it was grandfathers watching grandchildren at the playground and baseball diamond, and once it was a City of Savannah employee who manages the park. This week, a gentleman told me that while the city has replaced nearly every piece of playground equipment over the years, the merry-go-round is the original. He said, “I’m 66-years-old. I got hurt on that merry-go-round. My daughter got hurt on that merry-go-round…” He trailed off but smiled and shook his head as he watched his granddaughter hang off it and spin around crazily.

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The venerable Hull Park merry-go-round

The Ardsley Park/Chatham Crescent Neighborhood Association’s website gives a quick history:

“By the 1930’s, development of Ardsley Park and Chatham Crescent was nearly complete. The [Developers] Lattimore’s then set out for their next development, Ardmore. Running from 52nd Street to 55th Street to the South, and punctuated with a large, diamond shaped Hull Park, Ardmore would also become a popular Savannah neighborhood. On Sunday, November 8, 1925, a full page ad in the Savannah Morning News reported the public sale of lots in Ardmore.  The day after the sale, it was announced that every lot had been sold before noon the same day.”

I also found a great little video on the neighborhood’s history produced by the City of Savannah and featuring one of my favorite people. I love histories written with multiple layers: the practical details about time frames and architectural styles mixed with personal stories about the residents’ lives.

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View of Hull Park facing north with recent playground equipment (foreground) and the baseball diamond in the distance.
Uncategorized

Picnics in Cemeteries: Backyard History

Atlas Obscura recently re-posted an article, Remembering When Americans Picnicked in Cemeteries. Author Jonathan Kendall wrote, “Since many municipalities still lacked proper recreational areas, many people had full-blown picnics in their local cemeteries… One of the reasons why eating in cemeteries become a “fad,” as some reporters called it, was that epidemics were raging across the country: Yellow fever and cholera flourished, children passed away before turning 10, women died during childbirth. Death was a constant visitor for many families, and in cemeteries, people could “talk” and break bread with family and friends, both living and deceased.”

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Colonial Park cemetery mausoleum

Picnics in cemeteries are not news to archaeologists. Excavations in cemeteries often turn up soda bottles, alcohol bottles, toys, and bullets. Yes, bullets. In 1999, Chicora Foundation archaeologists mapped Colonial Park cemetery with a penetrometer survey (a penetrometer measures soil compaction). Their main goal was to map unmarked graves (an astonishing 8,678 unmarked graves were found in addition to the 560 marked graves). They also conducted a small excavation and found many late-1800s artifacts from citizens enjoying the park including lamp parts, soda and alcohol glass bottle fragments, toys, pipes, and shell casings and bullets. Few clothing artifacts or elaborate coffin hardware was found, so the burials were probably simple, shrouds and simple wood coffins.

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Sheftall Cemetery

Two eighteenth century Jewish Cemeteries sit behind Esther Garrison Elementary School on Jones Street. The Levi Sheftall Cemetery was the subject of archaeological investigation in 1990. No graves were excavated, but accumulated soil around the headstones was excavated, and the cemetery was mapped. Lots of children’s marbles were found as well as bullets, ranging in size from 18th century lead musket balls to a modern .45 caliber automatic.

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Gravestone in Colonial Park Cemetery

The cemetery picnicking trend ended around the 1920s, as more public parks were established and the death rate dropped, leading to less need for cemetery visitation. Kendall concludes, “Today, more than 100 years since Americans debated the trend, you’d be hard-pressed to find many cemeteries—especially those in big cities—with policies or available land that allow for picnics. Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, for example, has a no picnic rule.”

Backyard History

Backyard History: Tybee Lighthouse

My three-year-old insisted on going to Tybee today. He’s had worse suggestions, so we went and had a few relaxing hours on the beach. Me reading, him playing with his toy dump truck and loader. I haven’t taken my son up in the lighthouse yet, mostly because I think that will end in me carrying him. It’s a lot of stairs.

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Tybee Lighthouse from the beach.

James Oglethorpe had a navigational marker placed on the property now housing the lighthouse in 1733, the same year he founded Georgia. A lighthouse has stood in this area ever since. By 1736 Noble Jones, Georgia’s surveyor, supervised the construction of a 90-foot wooden tower, although it did not have a light. This daytime navigation marker was the largest on the British-controlled east coast. In 1741, a storm destroyed the tower.

A second, 90 to 94 foot lighthouse was built by 1742. It too did not have a light. An associated Keeper’s House was also built nearby. This lighthouse was gone by 1768, a victim of the harsh coastal elements. The third lighthouse was built in 1773 and destroyed by fire in 1791. The current lighthouse, a 100-foot, octagonal-base brick lighthouse, was built in 1791, probably on the foundation of the 1773 building. Note: the Tybee Light Station is a museum today; entry fees apply.

The Assistant Keeper’s House was restored in 2003. Since the restoration included some ground-disturbing activities, the Tybee Island Historical Society, which runs the Light Station and the Tybee Museum, called in archaeologists to make sure they weren’t destroying historic resources.

Archaeologists examined two corners the brick foundation beneath the existing, circa 1885 house. They excavated two test units (square areas that were dug out), finding nearly 5,000 artifacts in their small excavation. Artifacts recovered included architectural materials like brick, mortar, and window glass; kitchen ceramics, bottle glass, and tin cans were also discovered. Food remains showed the dietary variety: turtle, beef, pork, foul, fish, and eggs were eaten on site. Shellfish were also an important part of the diet including oysters, clams, crab, and whelk. Personal artifacts were found as well: a brass finger ring, pocketknife fragments, a glass marble, mirror glass, newspaper scraps, matches, and a piece of engraved slate. Bullets and other armament artifacts were found as well as uniform buckles and a brass insignia. Many of these are probably from the Civil War soldiers camped near the lighthouse.

The brick foundation under the current house is the footing for an earlier keeper’s house. A brown transfer printed sherd (ceramic fragment) was found in the foundation’s builder’s trench. Brown transfer printed ceramics were first made in 1809, so the building must date after 1809. The historical record states this circa 1809 house burned in 1885. Melted window and bottle glass were found with exploded bricks and highly tempered (heat-treated) nails. When iron is heated to extremely high temperatures, the nails are preserved and rust-free.

Artifacts from the 1700s were also found, so an even earlier building was also probably on this site. While no structural remains were found for an earlier building, an undated brick hearth and chimney pad were found, possibly from this 1700s era building.

Backyard History

Backyard History: Daffin Park

A neighbor was recently lunching in Daffin Park and found an 1883 Liberty Penny lying on the surface. His excited Facebook post showed how important local history, and especially tangible artifacts, are to us. Archaeologists vary on how excitable they get when non-archaeologists take artifacts. Legally speaking, taking any artifact from someone else’s property is stealing. However, some archaeologists acknowledge that one or two artifacts taken from a surface context (aka no digging*) probably won’t seriously damage a site. Of course, on public property, if everyone takes one or two artifacts, this can add up.

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1883 Liberty penny from Daffin Park

Designed by John Nolen, Daffin Park was founded in 1907, completed in 1909, and is part of the Parkside Place Historic District. The Beaux Arts-inspired Daffin Park is named after Philip Daffin, the first Chairman of the Savannah Park and Tree Commission. The park has always been designated for athletic pursuits, from the professional to the amateur. Grayson Stadium, built in 1941, replaced the older 1930s Municipal Stadium. Grayson Stadium encroached on Herty Park, which retains its original character as a pine grove, but today is also a dog park. The stadium also altered the park’s larger structure by eliminating the eastern circular drive. The east-west central roads have two live oak-lined allees creating a 210-foot-wide central mall that connected the two circular drives and four diagonal roads that lead to each corner of the park.

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Google Maps snapshot showing how the park’s west end has been altered by Grayson Stadium, leaving the park less symmetrical than the original.

Athletic fields north and south of the mall are still intact today, as is the children’s playground at Waters and Washington streets, albeit with updated playground equipment. Originally the southern open fields were occasionally used an a land strip for small planes. In addition to the open fields, today the park has specific areas for beach volleyball, tennis, basketball, and fishing. (Yes! There are fish and turtles in the lake). The present in-ground pool replaced an earlier, less formal pool. Tom Barton wrote, “The lake that fronts Victory Drive has its own mini-history. The original wet spot was created in the shape of the 48 contiguous United States. Years ago, kids would sneak into the lake and avoid paying a nickel for a required, pre-dip soapy shower [before entering the whites-only pool]. Bathers could rent suits as well – which explains the soapy showers.”

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Photograph of the Daffin Park Swimming Pool, 1905. From the Edward Girard Photographs collection, MS 1374. Source: Georgia Historical Society

Robin Wright Gunn recalls the park in the early 1970s, “Sometime during that era I recall several instances of riding in the back seat of the car, Mom at the wheel, as we rolled past the corner of Victory Drive and Bee Road, the location of Daffin Park, a somewhat neglected section of the unremarkably landscaped public facility. At some point in this period, less than a decade after Daffin Park was center stage for two racial desegregation lawsuits, this corner of Daffin became known as “The People’s Park,” the unofficial gathering place for Savannah’s hippies.” She writes about her attempt to find anyone who admits to visiting the park regularly during this time, possibly because of the recreational drug use then associated with the park. “Pot was everywhere, and heroin was easy to find. Perhaps it’s that hardcore reputation that has made it difficult to find people willing to talk about this slice of local history,” wrote Gunn.

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The mall with its live oak allée at Daffin Park’s center.

Today the park is beautiful as ever and is always full with people engaged in all forms of recreation. So let’s go fly a kite!

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Kite flying on the football fields.

*It is illegal to dig on public property.

 

Sources:

Daffin Park-Parkside Place Historic District National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. Download a copy here.

Stewart Poit, personal communication

Dr. Robin Williams, personal communication

Savannah Morning News, February 13, 2007, Tom Barton: “Daffin Park is everybody’s backyard

Connect Savannah, January 2, 2008, Robin Wright Gunn: “Hippies in Daffin: Where were you in ’72?

Alliance series, Backyard History, public archaeology

October 9, 1779: Backyard History

October 9, 1779, is the anniversary of the Battle of Savannah. Most people don’t know there was a major Revolutionary War battle in downtown Savannah. At 800 casualties, this is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution. However, only approximately 50 of these were British. We lost. Badly. The British held Savannah until the war’s end.

Archaeology has contributed to to our knowledge of this event. The Coastal Heritage Society manages a small, but critical, portion of the battlefield, Battlefield Memorial Park. In 2005, the park was scheduled for rehabilitation and a make-over. Archaeologist Rita Elliott asked for one last chance to find the redoubt, or small fort that the Americans and their allies attacked in an attempt to retake Savannah. She was successful, and Rita’s findings were incorporated into the reconstructed redoubt, memorial stones, and interpretive signs throughout the park. This work was also the catalyst for two National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program grants, starting in 2007. I was fortunate to be part of the “Savannah Under Fire” project team, who extended the excavations throughout downtown Savannah’s greenspaces, finding more intact pieces of the battlefield.

Archaeologists are often criticized for being “elitist” and not sharing artifacts or knowledge. Especially for this project, that cannot be farther from the truth. In addition to the signs on Battlefield Park, there is an exhibit in the Savannah History Museum next door, where you can see the artifacts recovered from the battlefield. The project’s social media is still floating around including this brochure and (my favorite) a video of us in the field. The technical reports for all phases of the project are available as free downloads on the LAMAR Institute website:

(While there, you can also look at more than 200 other archaeology reports from Georgia and the Southeast.)

Finally, today, and every October 9, the Coastal Heritage Society holds a Battlefield Memorial March. I attended several years under obligation as an employee but was always impressed by the event and its significance.

October 9, 2018, Battlefield Memorial March. Photograph courtesy of the Coastal Heritage Society Facebook page.
October 9, 2018, Battlefield Memorial March. Photograph courtesy of the Coastal Heritage Society Facebook page.

I urge you to explore your Backyard History, our Revolutionary War battlefield. There is so much more than I could possibly cover in one blog post. Battlefield Memorial Park is a great place to start.

Alliance series

The Alliance

I deliberately named the Savannah Archaeological Alliance (unlike the orange color scheme, which was a bit random, but as a Syracuse alum, I’m liking it). The Savannah and Archaeological should be fairly obvious- we’re doing archaeology in Savannah. The Alliance part is the most critical. I started this little venture as one person, but I’m already gaining partners and alliances. And nothing can happen without a little help from our friends. As I roll out more projects, I will introduce some partners that will be pretty obvious- other historic sites, historians, preservationists, and anthropologists. Others may not be immediately intuitive.

As anthropologists, we are trained to think holistically, to look at the whole picture. The Savannah Archaeological Alliance (SAA) looks at preservation holistically, not just considering historic preservation, city planning, archives, and other types of historic and urban resources and professionals. True, holistic preservation needs a healthy, local economy; SAA will always buy local when possible. True preservation also needs a healthy environment and in particular, good land conservation. For example, supporting family farms supports the preservation of archaeology sites. How? Attend your local farmer’s market*, buy local food, and keep family-owned farms in business. Small farms are good stewards of the land, and care about preserving their land in every sense of the word. Plowing and working the land does little to disturb archaeology sites. When small farms fail or when the next generation simply doesn’t want to continue farming, they have to sell their land, and to whom? Usually a developer.

There are many ways to preserve archaeology sites and support preservation, so we’ll be highlighting some of those projects that work and some that don’t in our Alliance series. We’ll also share ways you can support preservation everyday. This fall, become a Friend of the Forsyth Farmer’s Market, and better yet, stop by the Market Saturday morning (9am-1pm) or buy from the Farm Truck throughout the week. See you at the Market.

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Forsyth Farmers’ Market, Saturday, October 6, 2018.

*Full disclosure: I am a member of the Forsyth Farmer’s Market Board of Directors.