Wednesday, September 8, 2010

“History Beneath Us” Program Explores Wallace’s Reflecting Pond

As work was completed on General Lew Wallace’s personal study building in 1898, the General sought to add some water features adjacent to the now-iconic building. He had a fish-stocked moat ring the eastern half of the study, and to the north, he placed a stone-rimmed reflecting pool by which visitors could sit and appreciate the natural beauty of Wallace’s land in Crawfordsville’s Elston Grove.

Wallace filled in the reflecting pond and moat around 1902 due to safety and stability concerns, and these features have remained largely unknown to visitors in the decades since. The latest program sponsored by the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum aims to change that. During the weekend of September 18-19, the Museum will host Crawfordsville native Anne Moore and professional archaeologists from Weintraut & Associates in Zionsville and the University of Indianapolis in “History Beneath Us”, a planned excavation of the General’s reflecting pool where the public is invited to watch and take part.

“We want to uncover the reflecting pool to determine the location and structure of the feature and better interpret it during tours of the site,” said Amanda Wesselmann, Associate Director of the Museum. “We contacted Anne Moore, and she helped recruit colleagues to ensure that the process is handled correctly and professionally.” Weintraut & Associates and the University of Indianapolis will provide professional archaeologists to oversee the excavation, as well as student workers and excavation equipment.

This is a pilot archaeology program for the Museum, which may host further excavations of other areas of interest on the General’s grounds in the future. “Local lore has always held that Lew Wallace buried Old John, his Civil War horse, in the southeastern corner of the grounds,” said Wesselmann. “That is an area that we would definitely like to investigate.”

During the program, excavators will scrape down layers of earth with trowels to uncover the reflecting pool, sift dirt through screens to find small artifacts, and map the site with a variety of equipment. Visitors to the grounds will be able to observe the archaeologists at work, examine the findings as they are uncovered, and participate in parts of the process.

Excavation for the “History Beneath Us” program is free and open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 18 and Sunday, September 19. For more information on this and other programs at the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum, call 765-362-5769 or email study@ben-hur.com.

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