University of Iowa construction uncovers 1800s homes

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Friday, February 14, 2014

Project archeologist Marlin Engels says the Hubbard Park site along the Iowa River sits on what was a jumping off point for pioneers. “This was an important territorial road across the river. And you can imagine this in the 1830s, with Conestoga wagons all backed up here and teams of horses, people loading and unloading materials trying to get their teams across the river, because the ferry wasn’t even put in ’til the 1840s,” Engels explains.

Engels says within the foundations, buried about four feet below the surface, archeologists are uncovering a spread of household items –coins, scraps of dishes, and shards of bottles. He says it’s a unique situation where the items are preserved by a layer of clay and mud. “It’s one of the few chances in any city in Iowa that we’ve come across a sealed kind of time capsule layer that we can really get a lot of information out of,” Engels says.

Workers discovered the foundations in a green space on the U-I campus while digging down to install a chilled water pipe. Construction has been called off while archeologists complete an excavation. But project archeologist Bill Whittaker says that in order to allow the university’s project to go forward as quickly as possible, archeologists can only investigate the narrow trench created by the new construction. Whittaker says that makes it tougher to get a clear picture of the floor plan of the historic homes.

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