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Digging in the City of Brotherly Love

Digging in the City of Brotherly Love: Stories from Philadelphia Archaeology

Rebecca Yamin
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Digging in the City of Brotherly Love
    Book Description:

    Beneath the modern city of Philadelphia lie countless clues to its history and the lives of residents long forgotten. This intriguing book explores eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Philadelphia through the findings of archaeological excavations, sharing with readers the excitement of digging into the past and reconstructing the lives of earlier inhabitants of the city.

    Urban archaeologist Rebecca Yamin describes the major excavations that have been undertaken since 1992 as part of the redevelopment of Independence Mall and surrounding areas, explaining how archaeologists gather and use raw data to learn more about the ordinary people whose lives were never recorded in history books. Focusing primarily on these unknown citizens-an accountant in the first Treasury Department, a coachmaker whose clients were politicians doing business at the State House, an African American founder of St. Thomas's African Episcopal Church, and others-Yamin presents a colorful portrait of old Philadelphia. She also discusses political aspects of archaeology today-who supports particular projects and why, and what has been lost to bulldozers and heedlessness.Digging in the City of Brotherly Lovetells the exhilarating story of doing archaeology in the real world and using its findings to understand the past.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14264-8
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Beneath the Symbolic Surface
    (pp. 1-14)

    The archaeology of cities is the archaeology of building and rebuilding; it is the peeling away of the layers upon layers that constitute the complexity of urban places. It is an archaeology of what makes a city a city in the first place: intense human occupation in a constricted, crowded space. Cities are dynamic places to live and complicated places to dig. They grow and change and transform themselves, but beneath every new surface remains something of the old. This is as true in Philadelphia as it is in New York or Boston or Cairo or Rome. The remains are...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Hudson’s Square: The Middle Block of Independence Mall
    (pp. 15-38)

    Philadelphia is a city of squares—Rittenhouse, Washington, Logan, Franklin—all four part of Thomas Holme’s plan, drawn up for William Penn in 1683 (Figure 2.1). Penn’s city was to be a “green country

    town,” a grid of streets stretching between the two rivers—the Delaware on the east and the Schuylkill on the west—punctuated by a large square in the middle (where City Hall now stands) and slightly smaller squares, intended as parks, in each of the four corners. Although Penn saw only one of those squares come to fruition in his lifetime, and that one as a...

  7. CHAPTER THREE An Icon and an Icehouse: The First Block of Independence Mall
    (pp. 39-58)

    We began testing the site of the proposed new pavilion for the Liberty Bell in November 2001. Working in the shadow of Independence Hall, we wanted above all to find something that related to the heady days of creating the nation. Just the stables would do, the ones we knew were behind the State House Inn, which stood directly across Chestnut Street from the State House (now called Independence Hall) and was surely the site of many an important debate (Figure 3.1). What we didn’t bank on was anything relating to the president’s house at the other end of the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Artisans in a Changing World
    (pp. 59-77)

    John Adams became president in 1797, and he and his wife, Abigail, lived at 190 High Street for the few years that the federal government remained in Philadelphia. In 1800 the government moved to Washington, and the president’s house became a hotel, not a particularly illustrious fate for the precursor of the White House. Philadelphians, however, were thriving and the businesses along South Sixth Street continued to service the politicians and clerks who frequented the line of buildings that had become known as State House Row (Figure 4.1). The State House didn’t have a special function in those days (Lancaster...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE “We the People”: The Free Black Community, Native Americans, and the Celebration of the Constitution
    (pp. 78-98)

    The National Constitution Center, a museum dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, opened on July 4, 2003. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic described the building as “neither a puffed-up federal edifice nor a modern building in colonial drag. . . but a thoughtful work of architecture that distills our core national values into easy-to-read physical form.”¹ The NCC, as it has come to be known, spans practically the entire width of the mall on its northernmost block, encompassing an area of 160,000 square feet, 130,000 of which were examined archaeologically. But first the opening.

    It was...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Life and Death in the Nineteenth-Century City
    (pp. 99-119)

    Philadelphia’s African-American mayor John Street chose The Price of a Child by Lorene Cary as the first book for the “one city, one book” program. It was 2003 and there was renewed interest in the underground railroad, at least among scholars, and Cary’s book was a painless way to introduce the topic to a wider audience. The story, which is loosely based on an actual case, takes place in 1855 in Philadelphia.¹ An enslaved woman named Ginnie, and two of her three children (she has left one behind), are being forced to accompany their “master,” Jackson Pryor, to Nicaragua, where...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN On the Waterfront
    (pp. 120-138)

    Like so many cities in the United States, Philadelphia destroyed its historic waterfront in the rage to connect to the interstate highway system in the 1970s. Bypassing the downtown, I-95 follows the course of Water Street, historically called Swanson, which ran along the riverbank. When the highway was built, though, there was more land between Water Street and the Delaware River because the old wharves had been filled in to create land extending out into the river. Many of the buildings that were taken down for the highway stood on this “made” land, and buried beneath them were remnants of...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT An Archaeological Walk in the Eighteenth-Century City
    (pp. 139-166)

    Although ongoing archaeology generates the same kind of interest in Philadelphia it does elsewhere, the results of archaeological projects in the City of Brotherly Love tend to be forgotten. The construction that enables the archaeological investigations in the first place transforms the sites into something so different that what was there before is difficult to remember. It is a constant process in cities, and even aboveground changes can play tricks on the memory. Stores change hands, parking lots suddenly appear, old buildings are replaced by new ones. Cities are layered cultural landscapes; it is one of the things that makes...

  13. CHAPTER NINE An Archaeological Walk Through Nineteenth-Century Neighborhoods
    (pp. 167-186)

    The nineteenth century wrought too many changes to summarize here. At the beginning of the century Philadelphia was called the Athens of America, but by midcentury the city had as many problems as every other city that experienced the impact of industrialization and the explosive effects of absorbing the labor it took to do the work. From the microhistorical point of view that archaeological projects reach, there were changes in all aspects of life—from the way people set their tables to how they disposed of waste. There were changes in diet, in health care, in child rearing, in fashion,...

  14. CHAPTER TEN The Legacy of William Penn and the Power of the Past
    (pp. 187-210)

    Philadelphia’s archaeological past, the past we walked through in Chapters 8 and 9, is not easy to see. Even the brick outlines of eighteenth-century buildings that were taken down when Independence National Historical Park was created in the 1950s do little to suggest the vibrancy of the early city. But the archaeological process of finding buried remnants of Philadelphia’s past is ongoing, and it is amazing how often the process encounters the legacy of William Penn. Two projects done in 2005–6 met with the “proprietor” in very different ways. The first, in Franklin Square, touched on Penn and his...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 211-220)
  16. References
    (pp. 221-226)
  17. Index
    (pp. 227-240)