The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Researchers digging for pieces of history
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
They’re just a few days into their work, but archaeologists with Cultural Resources Inc. are finding bits and pieces of Fredericksburg’s history at the site where the new courthouse will be built.
Last week, demolition was completed, leveling the former Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court building and the former Savage building at Princess Anne and Charlotte streets.
But before the new $35.4 million courthouse rises there, the Architectural Review Board asked that an archaeological excavation be completed at the site.
Ellen Brady, the president of CRI, said her firm is trying to identify what may have existed on the spot over the years.
To guide them, the archaeological team is using old insurance maps, tax maps, historical records and information collected from Historic Fredericksburg Foundation Inc.
Historically, the lots have had several residential and commercial buildings on them, including a livery, a warehouse, a two-story 40-car garage and an auto repair shop, among other structures.
Brady said she believes a house stood on one portion of the lot from about 1880 to 1920.
“Fredericksburg is rich in written history, which makes it nice to correlate,” she said.
The archaeologists dug a giant hole about 3 feet deep in the middle of the site to do research.
So far, Brady’s team has found bits of glass, pottery, bricks, nails and other architectural materials.
Brady said the earliest findings come from the 1780s.
Brady said archaeologists also have found evidence of an alley, which would have run parallel to Charlotte Street between Princess Anne and Caroline streets.
It’s an unusual find, she said, because evidence of roads is less common than evidence left behind by structures.
The team has also found evidence of an old building between that alley and Charlotte Street.
The whole process will take a few weeks, and they will use a backhoe to open up more areas, Brady said.
After the dig is complete, they will bring what they find back to their lab and analyze it. Ultimately, the artifacts will be handed over to the city.
Brady said she commends the city for looking into the site’s past.
“It has done a good job preserving history while moving forward,” she said.
A similar archeological search was conducted in 2006 before the nearby Courtyard by Marriott hotel was built.
Crews then found what was believed to be the foundation of a structure that may have been a former slave quarters.
The work revealed details about the way Fredericksburgers of the 18th and early 19th centuries lived. Archaeologists were particularly intrigued by remnants of the Indian Queen hotel, which stood on the corner of Caroline and Charlotte streets from 1771 until it burned in 1832.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413