Early Historic Excavations at Hubbard Park, Iowa City (13JH1440)

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Thursday, November 6, 2014
by Cynthia Peterson, Bill Whittaker, and Melody Pope, University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist
 
Hubbard Park, now part of the University of Iowa campus, was once an ethnically-mixed working-class neighborhood occupied from the 1840s until 1926, when it was razed during construction of the Iowa Memorial Union. Ongoing archaeological excavations are exploring this forgotten neighborhood.
 
After construction unexpectedly exposed early historic features and artifacts, the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) conducted emergency excavations in winter 2014. These excavations revealed that the block preserves stratified historic deposits, the oldest 4 feet below surface, probably deposited during the Great Flood of 1851. Subsequent occupations spread fill soils on top of this flood deposit, as it developed into a mixed neighborhood of small rental cottages and comparatively larger houses, anchored by the Rinella corner grocery store. Residents included extremely impoverished people as well as those of moderate income. Some African-Americans resided on this block, among immigrant and U.S.-born Euro-American residents, particularly those of Irish and Sicilian descent.  
 
In fall 2014 OSA archaeologists returned to explore other areas of the park. Soil coring and auger testing identified areas of the block that have extremely disturbed soils and other areas that have intact buried soils. Excavation of about 3,000 square feet in the northeast corner of the park identified a house foundation, privy (outhouse), refuse-filled pits and a root cellar, all pre-dating the Civil War. 
 
Excavations began November 3 in the south half of the park, in an area with intact buried soils that are likely in the backyards of the smaller rental cottages. Archaeologists would really like to find a privy latrine, since privies typically contain stratified layers of trash that can show economic changes over time, as well as inform about the types of food eaten.
 
Excavations (January 2014)
Excavations (January 2014).
 
1850s trade token and prehistoric Archaic Period spear point
1850s trade token and prehistoric Archaic Period spear point (January 2014).
 
Excavating inside a tent
Excavating inside a tent (February 2014).
 
More Excavating inside a tent
Excavating inside a tent (February 2014).
 
Excavated house foundation
Excavated house foundation (February 2014).
 
OSA’s Dan Horgen excavating a test unit
OSA staff and a volunteer working at the site (October 2014).
 
Excavated cistern
OSA’s Dan Horgen excavating a test unit (October 2014).
 
Excavated cistern again
Excavated cistern (October 2014).
 
First exposing an outhouse
First exposing an outhouse (October 2014).
 
Same outhouse, half-excavated
Same outhouse, half-excavated (October 2014).
 
UI Associate Professor Art Bettis of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
UI Associate Professor Art Bettis of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences brings his class, Soil Genesis and Geomorphology, to examine the soils at the Hubbard Park archaeological excavations (October 2014).

 

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