Dig team makes big find in Patterson Park

Written by on April 23, 2014 in Featured - No comments
McKenzie Delaney of Ellicott City, foreground, helps archeologists excavate and catalog brick from a buried structure, located near the Patterson Park White House, that may have been key to the defense of Baltimore City in 1814. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

McKenzie Delaney of Ellicott City, foreground, helps archeologists excavate and catalog brick from a buried structure, located near the Patterson Park White House, that may have been key to the defense of Baltimore City in 1814. – Photo by Erik Zygmont

Archeologists from the Louis Berger Group thoroughly sifted soil taken from a dig site just south of the Patterson Park White House. “We’re looking for animal bones and militaria – anything associated with the battle itself and also the people who lived there,” said field leader Jason Shellenhamer. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

Archeologists from the Louis Berger Group thoroughly sifted soil taken from a dig site just south of the Patterson Park White House. “We’re looking for animal bones and militaria – anything associated with the battle itself and also the people who lived there,” said field leader Jason Shellenhamer. – Photo by Erik Zygmont

A couple weeks into the archeological dig at Patterson Park, the dig team—which includes volunteers from the community—has made a major find.

Last week, Field Supervisor Jason Shellenhamer and archeologist Ryun Papson, both of the Louis Berger Group, were assisting volunteer archeologists in dusting and cataloging bricks and sifting soil for small items at the site of a buried basement, just south of the Patterson Park White House.

The site was first identified by Dr. Tim Horsely, using two advanced tools: ground-penetrating radar and a magnetometer.

“We have a beautiful shadow of the footprint,” said Shellenhamer.

The archeological team believes that there is a strong possibility that the footprint belongs to Loudslanger’s Tavern, a crucial place in the defense of the City of Baltimore in 1814. Originally established as a butcher shop in 1810, according to historians, the tavern is historically significant for several reasons.

First, Loudslanger’s Tavern is possibly the the butcher shop that gave Butcher’s Hill its name, Shellenhamer said. He noted that Loudslanger’s Tavern and other butchers were required to be located up on the hill because of “the smell and the mess.”

Second, Loudslanger’s Tavern was used by Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith, commander of the American land forces that protected Baltimore, as a headquarters, according to historian Scott Sheads.

Sheads’ blog, Maryland1812.wordpress.com, is worth consulting for a wealth of information on the War of 1812.

Sheads mentioned Loudslanger’s Tavern at a January kickoff and informational meeting on the archeological dig, which is scheduled to continue through mid-May, on a Tuesday-through-Saturday schedule, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
“Saturdays are the main public days,” said Shellenhamer, though the team welcomes questions from park passers-by throughout the dig.

The archeologists will also be engaging the public at upcoming Patterson Park events such as Día del Niño, near the Pagoda this weekend, as well as the Kinetic Sculpture Race on May 3 and the Butcher’s Hill Crafts Fair and Flea Market on May 10.

Baltimore Heritage, which is sponsoring the dig with the Friends of Patterson Park, the Louis Berger Group and other historical groups and businesses, held a couple volunteer workshops last week to educate the public on how to assist at an archaeological site.

Last week, residents rotated into the archeological team as it continued its excavation and cataloging. The archaeological team reported that over 50 volunteers had signed up to help out.

The Baltimore Heritage blog, available at baltimoreheritage.org, has been reporting discoveries as they occur.

In addition to the suspected site of Loudslanger’s Tavern, the team has uncovered coins, ceramics, and a French gunflint that may have been used with a French rifle during the War of 1812, according to the blog.

Loudslanger’s Tavern is one of many discoveries that could be unearthed by the project, dubbed “We Dig Hampstead Hill.” Hampstead Hill is an old name for Patterson Park, specifically the northwest corner, and it is believed that this was the central spot where—toward the end of the War of 1812—a huge force of Americans, mostly volunteers, gave pause to British invaders and saved Baltimore from the sacking and burning suffered by Washington, D.C., earlier in the war.

Last week, Shellenhamer mentioned that the team had “found some teeth today,” another discovery consistent with a butcher shop.

If the foundation south of the White House is Loudslanger’s Tavern, than it was also used as a headquarters for Union soldiers during the Civil War, Shellenhamer said.

As of yet, nobody has made a definitive statement on the origin of the brick structure.

“Has our search for the War of 1812 already turned up the original butcher on Butcher’s Hill?” asks Eli Pousson, Baltimore Heritage’s director of Preservation and Outreach on the organization’s blog.

“Only additional research and archeology this spring can help answer that question.”

by Erik Zygmont
editor@baltimoreguide.com

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