Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Roof Comes Off!

It's the moment we've all been waiting for: workers removed an entire side of the Study roof!

Workers went up more than 30 feet in a lift truck to cut the copper roof into manageable pieces.

Then they pried the pieces from the underlayment...

and put them in the basket of the lift truck to bring down.

Now the east side of the building looks a bit bare. Something that surprised some of the Museum staff was that the structure underneath the copper is wooden, including the battens or ridges. We thought there would be metal under the copper. The photo here shows that the wood is blackened from being in the heat for 112 years!

Click on the title of the blog post to see a video of a piece of the roof coming off.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lew's Crew Volunteer Call Out

We're looking to add volunteers to Lew's Crew!

Following in Lew's footsteps (as Adjutant General he recruited 13 companies of soldiers for the Civil War in 10 days), we're calling everyone interested.

Our biggest need is for tour guides, so if you are a people person willing to be an ambassador for Crawfordsville, we'd love to see you at the Carriage House, Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 5:30 p.m.!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Moving the Steps

To reset the front steps of the Study, workers removed caulking and sealant from around the cracks and gaps (we posted pictures last week), and then looped a harness around each step to remove them with the lift truck.

Pulling the stop step away from the building.

Completely removed!

One down, two to go.

They removed all the steps in a similar fashion. The bottom step has a large crack in it, so they moved that one is two pieces. Here they're stacked in reverse, with the cracked bottom step on top.
You can see why the steps need to be reset! The settling through the years, combined with previous work, have resulted in a hodge-podge pile of material under the steps. If you look closely, you can see the combination of bright red vitrified brick, concrete, and browner, local Poston brick making up the fill under the steps.

Click on the blog post title to see a video of the top step coming off!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Exciting Conclusion

Some of the artifacts found in the screens include pieces of bottles (round pieces in the middle), fragments of plates (bottom left corner), nails (upper right corner), and a squirrel vertebrae (top).

Anne Moore of Weintraut and Associates excavates a feature. An archaeological feature is like an artifact, but it is part of the site and cannot be removed without destroying it. This small trench was filled with gravel, a very different fill from the surrounding soil.

In another unit, students carve out the dirt around remnants of bricks from the reflecting pool wall. In more recent years, drainage pipes ran through this area, so these pieces may have broken apart while installing those pipes.

The final shot of the wall. This section is clearly made of bricks, which prompts the question: where are the stones that rimmed the edges of the pool? Someone suggested that the worker hired to fill in the pool agreed to do so in exchange for the stonework. Hmmm...

At the end of the excavation, archaeologists backfill the site with the dirt they removed. While it seems funny to cover up everything they just dug out, backfilling helps to protect what they found and fills in the holes so visitors to the grounds don't get hurt.

So, over the course of the weekend we found one wall of the reflecting pool, more evidence for a location for Old John's grave, and some surprising artifacts. We had a good turnout of community members coming to help. We also raised more questions than answers, and never did find the bottom of the pool. As sometimes happens, we were just getting to "the good stuff" when it was time to leave. Based on this first program, we are excited for another edition of History Beneath Us, and started making plans before the archaeologists left on Sunday! Stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How Low Can You Go?

The archaeologists devoted one unit to finding the bottom of the reflecting pool. A probe indicated that the bottom of the pool is about 55 cm below the bottom of the unit when this picture was taken. That's going to take a lot of digging! Because this is not an artifact-rich area, and they wanted to get through the soil quickly, they dug with shovels rather than trowels.

Every 10 cm is a new level. To know how deep they are, the students must measure from a level line. They measure at least two corners and in the center of the unit to get an accurate reading for the entire unit.

John's Grave?

Where is the grave of Old John? Local lore has it that Lew Wallace buried his favorite horse, named John, somewhere on the grounds. Last fall, surveyer Jim Swift brought out ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to investigate the southwestern corner of the grounds, where many people remember there being a marker to John decades ago. The GPR found an anomaly under the surface, meaning that there is an area that is not the same as the soil around it. Could it be a horse's grave? An outbuilding for the house on the other side of the brick wall? Just some funny dirt?

Dr. Chris Moore of University of Indianapolis brought out a bucket auger to drill into the ground and extract layers of soil to see what this anomaly is made of.

Moore sifted through the dirt in each layer, noting its composition and whether or not it contained any artifacts. A student recorded his observations so we have a record of the layers of soil.

Pay dirt! 85 cm below the surface, we hit a cultural layer containing tile (orange-colored piece), charcoal and coal (larger black pieces). Such materials were commonly used as backfill years ago when someone dug up an area and then filled it back in. The question is, why was someone digging here? Could it be John's grave?

Who's up for another History Beneath Us program focusing on this area?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Top of the Wall

Anne Moore from Weintraut & Associates cut through tree roots that have grown across the top of the reflecting pool wall.

At the end of the first day, the top of the reflecting pool wall was clean and clearly defined.

Volunteers screened each bucket of dirt for artifacts. They pulled out coal fragments, plastic, remnants of past Easter egg hunts, and many small pieces of brick.

Several surprising artifacts came to light during the day, such as this plate fragment. Could it be from Lew's kitchen in the basement of the Study?


The top of a wall has been found during the excavation of the reflecting pond! The archeology students and their helpers have unearthed a portion of the wall, amazingly just 3-4" below ground level. The next step in the process will be to continue digging, unearthing more of the wall and hopefully find the 'floor' or bottom of the pond. It may reveal the answer to some questions: Was the reflecting pond walls torn down or was it filled in with dirt and debris?

The dig may point us in the right direction for an answer.

The dig continues through Sunday, open 10-5. Will more discoveries be made?

History Beneath Us - Beginning

A student helps map elevations with surveying equipment. Knowing how deep they are digging is critical to archaeologists' work, so preparations require taking initial elevations of the ground. As they dig, the crew will measure everything in centimeters.

Another part of preparations is marking bags for artifacts. All the dirt is screened and any artifacts put into the bag that corresponds to the layer of earth it was taken from. This helps archaeologists know what objects were found near the surface and what was deeper.

Chris Moore of the University of Indianapolis shows two students how to scrape away layers of dirt with trowels.

One of the crew uncovers a drainage tile in one of the units. Though not part of the reflecting pool, this is an artifact that tells the history of this part of the grounds.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Skylight - Here and Gone

Lew Wallace installed a stained glass window in the center of the skylight in his Study. Just below the stained glass sat scrolled ironwork.

This week workers removed the stained glass for cleaning and repairs, leaving the ironwork in place. They also removed a couple of the panels of frosted plexiglass that now compose the skylight. Wallace originally had clear glass, and so the peeks through the empty spaces through the windows in the cupola show a partial view of what he must have enjoyed daily.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Study Restoration Project Has Begun!

Work on the Study Restoration Project began this week with construction workers setting up scaffolds and starting repairs. Workers are assessing and preparing to remove the copper roof in sections. They plan to work on the building one side at a time, so visitors to the site can get unobstructed photos of the photogenic Study. This is the first time in 112 years that full-scale construction has taken place on the building, though, so pictures with scaffolding are quite unique!

In addition to beginning roof repairs, workers also began resetting the front steps into the Study.

The Study's interior will be inaccessible to visitors during the Restoration Project as workers repair the skylight and plaster damaged by water leaking into the building. The safety of the General's Study is a priority, and we took measures to protect the interior features that we couldn't remove with the rest of the artifacts.

The Museum will remain open to visitors and share Lew Wallace's legacy through this year's exhibit, Sanctuary: Preserving the Legacy of Lew Wallace, featuring artifacts and photos of the General, and also through guided tours of the Study exterior. We hope you can stop by and see history happen!

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