Coopers, Peddlers, and Bricklayers: Telling the Story of a Working-Class Property through Public Archaeology in Washington, DC

Authors: Julianna Jackson, District Leadership Intern in the DC Historic Preservation Office; and Chardé Reid, DC Historic Preservation Office

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The DC HPO Archaeology Team will be hosting a “Public Archaeology Day” at the Shotgun House Public Archaeology Project (1229 E St., SE) on Saturday, March 11th from 9am to 3pm (weather permitting). Please come by for a site tour!

When German-born carpenter John Biegler (or Briegler) first bought Lots 4 and 7, in Square 1019 in 1850, the landscape southeast of the Capitol was relatively remote and probably resembled more of a pastoral setting than a city. The Capitol Hill neighborhood was described as “pre-urban” and was sparsely populated with large swaths of land available for development (HPRB Staff Report 2016). By the 1850s the neighborhood was slowly developing and a small one-story, two-room frame structure was constructed on Lot 7 – possibly by Biegler himself. Biegler lived at a 1223 E Street and likely used the Shotgun House as an investment property. In 1853, German-born peddler Ernst Tungel bought the Shotgun House. Sometime before 1887, Tungel added a rear frame addition to the house, possibly indicating that the family’s financial situation had improved. Tungel and his wife lived at the property until their deaths in 1890. The property was eventually willed to Tungel’s wife’s niece, Luise, and her husband, Cotter Bride, an Irish immigrant. From 1890 until 1905, the Brides rented out the property to a series of tenets including John Herke, a German-immigrant cooper, and his family, and the D’Andelets, a father and son who were local musicians.

Left: 1883 “Bird’s-eye view of The national capital, Washington, D.C.” Sketched from nature by Adolph Sachse, 1883-1884 (LOC). Right: Front façade of the Shotgun House prior to deconstruction, looking south. September 2016 (DC HPO).

In 1905, Daniel C. Hartley, a blacksmith and horseshoer, according to the Washington City Directories, purchased the property and immediately transferred it to his son- the same day. Hartley’s son, Daniel C. Hartley, Jr. was a bricklayer who lived in the Shotgun House along with his wife Mabel and their children. It was Hartley Jr. who built a garage at the rear of the lot in 1917 and added a brick kitchen onto the back of the Shotgun House in 1938. The Hartley’s daughter, Edna Switzer (née Hartley), and her husband Wilson, purchased the property in 1941 and lived there with her mother until at least 1948. According to documentation, in 1948, Wilson Switzer and Edna were listed as representatives for Continental Radio. In 1954, Mabel Hartley was still listed in the directories as living at 1229 E Street, SE. The Switzers owned the property until 1985, and are also the last known occupants of the property.

Left: Julianna Jackson, District Leadership Program Intern, excavating a Shovel Test Pit, looking north. Right: DC HPO archaeologists and volunteers sifting excavated soil and collecting artifacts to be processed and sorted in the field lab, looking northwest.

Project Background and Fieldwork

During the late 20th century, the house at 1229 E Street, SE (today Square 1019, Lot 816) fell into disrepair, was vacant, and no longer structurally sound. Despite countless efforts by DC Historic Preservation Office (DC HPO) staff to enforce compliance with established building code standards as well as the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB)’s multiple recommendations for rehabilitation, the Shotgun House was never stabilized or repaired. In 2016, the property was sold to SGA companies, Inc., and their redevelopment concept was presented and accepted by the HPRB and DC HPO with the stipulation that they reconstruct and incorporate the original structure (to the best of their ability) into their redesign and allow the DC HPO Archaeologist to conduct a pro bono archaeological investigation of the lot prior to construction.  Given that the Shotgun House was one of only two remaining houses of this vernacular style, in Capitol Hill, DC HPO staff and the HPRB recognized this rare and exciting opportunity  to explore the lives of DC residents that have often been underrepresented in the historical record, that of working-class and immigrant households.

Left: American University and Howard University student volunteers sifting, looking west. Center: Archaeologist excavating test units in the rear of the property, looking south. Right: Historic trash midden uncovered in one of the test units in the rear of the property, looking north.

In August 2016, DC HPO archaeologists and volunteers began a systematic investigation of the Shotgun House property. Initial shovel test pits revealed a high density of historic artifacts in the rear of the lot. Subsequently, a block of four test units were opened, in the location of the former1917 garage (torn down in the early-2000s). We believe this area was used as the household’s refuse deposit, prior to the construction of the garage. Preliminary dating of some of the diagnostic artifacts suggests a timeframe as early as the mid-19th century.

Left: Archaeologists and volunteers working within the footprint of the Shotgun House after it was dismantled in December 2016, looking southwest. Center: Volunteer Johnny Hyche, anthropology MA student at the University of Maryland, displaying a glass bottle he excavated within the potential cellar feature, looking west. Right: The potential cellar feature uncovered within the footprint of the house, looking west.

In late December 2016, the house was dismantled, offering archaeologists access to the footprint. Currently, three active test units are being excavated in the general area of the 1880s and 1938 house additions, after STPs in the general location yielded a high volume of artifacts and the most undisturbed natural strata within the footprint of the former house. Interestingly, three walls of a probable cellar have been uncovered in this location, measuring three and a half feet wide by five feet long. The sub-surface structure was filled in with trash, likely when it was no longer needed, and the artifacts are currently being analyzed to determine when that was. The feature is still yielding artifacts and is the focus of current efforts.

Left: Dr. Ruth Trocolli, District Archaeologist, talking to a DC school group about the excavations, looking. Right: Chardé Reid, Assistant District Archaeologist, showing a DC school group some of the artifacts collected during the archaeological investigation, looking east.

Public Archaeology and Outreach

The site was officially opened to the public in February of 2017 and over the course of the project hands-on learning, site tours, fence talks, local news media, and Facebook posts have kept residents and stakeholders informed and involved in local history. The DC SHPO archaeology team has approached the project as an opportunity to learn in manifold ways, using public outreach and education to engage the public with the past. Visitors have the opportunity to experience an active archaeological site, explore the landscape that past inhabitants modified, and interact with artifacts that previous occupants left behind. To date, over 150 people have visited the Shotgun House, including: neighbors, District residents, and school groups. There has been an outpouring of support from the community which is economically, socially, and racially diverse – a microcosm of the city as a whole, which reinforces the need for engaging public programs that highlight the District’s rich history.

Left: Dr. Ruth Trocolli showing visitors some of the artifacts collected during the archaeological investigation, looking southeast. Right: Chardé Reid leading a site tour to a group of visitors.

Moving forward the DC HPO Archaeology Team will continue field investigations, but will likely wrap up by late March. Following fieldwork, artifacts will be processed and analyzed and a management summary detailing the results and findings of the excavation will be written. DC HPO archaeologists and staff will continue to share and preserve the story of the Shotgun House’s working-class immigrant occupants through lectures, public events, and outreach activities.

Keep up with the progress of the project and learn more about DC archaeology on our Facebook page:

Left: Volunteer Claire showing a glass beer or ale bottle she excavated, looking west. Center: DC HPO architectural historian Gabriela Gutowski washing Shotgun House artifacts. Right: Christine Ames, Capital City Fellow, photographing the stratigraphy of a rear test unit.

D.C. Historic Preservation Office takes on Hot and Humid 2016 Day of Archaeology Festival!

by Christine Ames
Capital City Fellow

Greetings and Happy Day of Archaeology (#DAYOFARCH)! The D.C. Historic Preservation Office (D.C. HPO) is proud to have co-sponsored and participated in D.C.’s Day of Archaeology Festival on July 16th!  This year marked the 5th Annual Day of Archaeology Festival, organized by the local non-profit Archaeology in the Community, and was held at historic Dumbarton House in Georgetown for the 2nd year in a row.  About 30 cultural resource-based agencies, firms, departments, and organizations participated, and over 500 visitors attended!  It was a huge success, and the D.C. HPO is thrilled to have reached out to so many eager children and adults, who now know more about their city’s archaeological past.

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It was all-hands-on-deck for D.C. HPO staff, interns, and volunteers- providing no less than four engaging archaeological activities and two archaeological displays. Activities included our staple ‘What is This?’ artifact guessing game, which has since grown to include prehistoric, historic, and faunal artifact categories of materials typically found in the mid-Atlantic region, and specifically from archaeological sites in D.C.

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We brought along our ‘Mend Me’ historic ceramic mending exercise, where visitors tried their hand at refitting ceramic sherds. We have since added to the mending exercise, creating puzzles with whole images of ceramic vessels.  These have proved a great alternative for those unable to handle the actual ceramic sherds.

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We also dusted off our Pinch Pot activity, and brought along quick-dry clay for visitors to make their own pots to take away.  Visitors could decorate their pots similarly to prehistoric Woodland Period pottery, using replica tools including sharks teeth, and cordage wrapped paddles. And, thanks to current District Leadership Program Intern Julianna Jackson, we added a new activity this year- Make Your Own Cordage!  Visitors were able to twine fibers into cordage or string, and then use it to create a personal bracelet.  In doing so, visitors got a better idea of how prehistoric peoples made their own personal adornments but also how they would create cordage suitable for so many important purposes like fishing lines, snares, etc.

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Finally, the D.C. HPO had two archaeological displays.  The first was our Woodland Period pottery display, featuring artifacts from the Barney Circle archaeological project.  Various types of prehistoric pottery sherds were on display, and to give the visitor a sense of what an unbroken prehistoric pottery vessel might look like, we also provided a complete replica Woodland Period pottery vessel, courtesy of the Jefferson Patterson Museum Maryland Traveling Trunk and a 3-D printed scan of one by our colleague Dr. Bernard K. Means of the VCU Virtual Curation Laboratory. In this way, the display tied in nicely to the pinch pot making activity. In addition, the D.C. HPO also displayed a variety of replica containers, also from the Maryland Teaching Trunk, made from organic materials such as gourd, birch bark, reed basketry, and wood. These were commonly used prehistorically, but examples are rarely found in our local archaeological deposits and so we know little about them in comparison to the more durable pottery vessels.

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Our second archaeological display contained a variety of artifacts from the 2015 Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project.  The D.C. HPO conducted a community-oriented archaeology project on the former property of Yarrow Mamout, a freed slave who purchased a lot in upper Georgetown in the early 19th century.  The 17,000+ artifacts are still being processed, and while we cannot definitively say yet if any are directly associated with Yarrow Mamout’s occupation, there are many artifacts that are datable to his period of ownership.  Much of the assemblage represents the households of the families that lived on the property following Yarrow Mamout, throughout the remainder of the 19th and into the 20th century.  Artifacts included personal items such as religious pendants, crosses, and buttons, including potential U.S. Navy and Union Civil War-era buttons, and a possible German Imperial WWI-era button.  A D.C. dog tag from the year 1922-1923, porcelain doll parts, a plastic toy soldier, possible gaming pieces, and quite a few marbles made up a rich and relatable exhibit to all.  In addition, a beautiful and complete agate pottery doorknob, a heavily corroded door bolt (identified via x-ray scanning from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab), Chestnut Farms Dairy milk bottle, and Parke-Davis pharmaceutical bottle were also a part of the display.

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In all, the D.C. HPO could not have pulled off such a successful Day of Archaeology Festival without its hard-working and amazing volunteer team.  Seven people gave up their Saturday to help us set-up, exhibit, and break-down our booths on a day when temperatures were 99 degrees Fahrenheit with 99% humidity!  Our volunteers have shown nothing but love and support to our archaeology program, and we could not effectively do this type of public outreach without them. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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The DC HPO Volunteers:

Lois Berkowitz

Mia Carey

Hali Thurber

Justin Uehlein

George Riseling

Becca Peixotto

Lauryl Zenobi

Photos courtesy of AITC and D.C. HPO

The DC HPO staff team:

Christine Ames, Capital City Fellow

Julianna Jackson, District Leadership Program Intern

Chardé Reid, Assistant District Archaeologist

Dr. Ruth Trocolli, District Archaeologist


Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project Receives Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award

As the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (HPO), within the Office of Planning, heads to the annual Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference this weekend, we would like to share the special honor the Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project received back in January, at the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The project, organized by D.C. HPO staff, was the third place recipient of the 2016 SHA Gender and Minority Affairs Committee’s (GMAC) inaugural Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award. Award recipients included the D.C. City Archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, Assistant City Archaeologist, Chardé Reid, Mia Carey, Ph.D. candidate at University of Florida and Project Field Director, and Charles LeeDecker, Project Archaeologist.

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[L-R] Chardé Reid, Mia Carey, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, Charles LeeDecker. Courtesy of SHA

The GMAC Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award honors those who exhibit outstanding best practices in community collaboration, engagement, and outreach in their historical archaeology and heritage preservation work. This award is named after the late Howard University Professor Mark E. Mack (1961–2012). As a professor of anthropology, he regularly encouraged students to work with the public, gave community lectures, and attended civic meetings. In 2005, he was approached by an Adams Morgan community member to conduct a survey of a historic African American cemetery located partially within the Walter C. Pierce Community Park, a District-owned property. Professor Mack and his students conducted much of the work pro-bono, over and above their school commitments. Along with community members, he lobbied for funding to investigate and commemorate the historic African American cemetery, earning him and his students a 2007 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation for Archaeology. Many of his former students on the survey team have gone on to successful careers or attended graduate school in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, or historic preservation. It is no surprise that former students of Professor Mack are part of the Yarrow Mamout project team.

The Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project was conducted between June and November 2015, in order to identify and evaluate the historical integrity of the Georgetown property that once belonged to Yarrow Mamout, a prominent African Muslim living in early 19th century D.C. The project was initiated following the concerns of the Georgetown community and James Johnston, author of the 2012 book From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family. The property at 3324 Dent Pl., NW was on the brink of redevelopment and had never been investigated. Although the D.C. HPO had no clear legal mandate to require the property owner to conduct archaeological investigations, the property owner granted permission for the pro-bono project. To provide operating funds, neighbors established an account for donations administered by the non-profit D.C. Preservation League, and raised over $4000. Donors came from various demographic groups, including ethnic, educational, socioeconomic status, political, and religious. The funds were used for equipment and supplies, and shipping artifacts to the lab for analysis, but the largest amount was spent on rental of a mini-backhoe and operator for deep-testing and backfilling. The D.C. Office of Planning also provided funds for lot clearing, supplies, and permits, as well as office space, and staff time. The archaeological survey included manual excavation of shovel test pits and test units, mechanical testing, geoarchaeology, ground penetrating radar, and 3D photogrammetry. The team provided twice-daily fence talks and tours of the property when on site. Throughout the survey, team members gave public talks to community groups and media interviews on the project.

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Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project Field Photos. Courtesy of DC HPO and volunteers.

The Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project collaborated with Masjid Muhammad, of the Nation’s Mosque of America, to hold a funeral prayer ceremony for Mamout on the property. The event drew over 100 people and offered the local community a chance to explore a property that once belonged to a known African Muslim as well as encouraged a safe place to engage in dialogue about the history and contributions of African Muslims. This is especially significant during a time when Islamophobia is rampant, and Muslims are being persecuted for the acts of radical terrorist groups. The participants were touched with the care and attention given to Yarrow Mamout’s former property, and positive message about Muslim contributions to US history.

The overall purpose of the project was to conduct public outreach, promote education, engage with the neighborhood and various communities, and to bring attention to the little-known history of black Georgetown and of African Muslims. The project would not have been successful without its numerous volunteers who contributed substantial amounts of time and effort. The Yarrow Mamout story could not have unfolded without their unwavering support. A special thanks to local residents, D.C. agencies, federal agencies, local Cultural Resource Management firms, Washington Parks and People, the DC Preservation League, Archaeology in the Community, as well as Dan Wagner of Geo-Sci Consultants, Inc., Elizabeth Wilson of Tomb Geophysics LLC and students from Howard University (HU) and Georgetown University.


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Yarrow Mamout Funeral Prayer Service at 3324 Dent Place, August 2015. Courtesy of Washington Post and DCHPO.

The Mark E. Mack Award was presented on Friday, January 08, 2016. The GMAC committee jury, who proposed the creation of the Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award, included: Justin Dunnavant, HU alumnus and former Mack student, Dr. Florie Bugarin, HU professor, Dr. Chris Fennell, and Dr. Chris Matthews. Two papers about the project were presented at the conference.

The D.C. HPO would like to thank the GMAC committee of the SHA. The D.C. HPO would also like to thank all of the donors, volunteers, and community members who contributed to the project as well as Margaret Cheney, property owner, who ensured that the legacy of Yarrow Mamout lives on. We could not have done this without you!

Summary of Approved Penthouse Changes

A summary of the recently approved changes to the Zoning Regulation penthouse provisions (Zoning Commission Case 14-13) is now available.  It is just a summary, though – for the complete regulations, refer to the Office of Zoning website (  Also, until the final Order is published in the DC Register, which will happen soon, these changes are not in effect.

PARK(ing) Day 2015

PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The Office of Planning’s space on 4th Street SW included a large checkerboard, a seating area, and two gardens made from shipping pallets.  We can’t wait until next year!

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Exploring Downtown with Golden Triangle BID

By Emily Pierson

Last Friday, Leona Agouridis, Executive Director of Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID), led OP Director Eric Shaw and several representatives from across the agency on a walking tour through downtown. The tour highlighted some of the initiatives Golden Triangle BID has spearheaded over the past few months, working with business owners, workers, and DC government agencies to enhance the environment in and around DC’s central business district.

pic 1pic 2Through their focus on sustainability, the Golden Triangle BID has been focusing on improving the sidewalks with landscaping.  In a partnership with the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), the BID built five rain gardens in Golden Triangle including one at 19th and L Streets.  The garden also includes stone seating and educational signage.

The BID has also worked with local businesses to improve the landscaping in front of buildings throughout Golden Triangle with the annual Golden Streets competition. Each year in the spring, businesses design and arrange trees, flowers, plants, and other landscape elements around a chosen theme. The entries are then voted on by the public and a panel of experts.   The photos below highlight this year’s expert’s choice featuring an “Earth, Wind, and Fire” theme on 17th Street between H and I (Eye) Streets.

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Easily the most successful initiative promoted by Golden Triangle BID has been Farragut Fridays, a weekly festival in Farragut Park during the summer months. On this particularly beautiful July Friday, hundreds of people came out for food trucks, games, fresh air, and sunshine. For these events, Golden Triangle BID provides additional outdoor seating with umbrellas, an “outdoor office,” ping pong tables and corn hole games, and tents for educating visitors to the park on the BID’s mission and initiatives. The vibrant weekly event draws local office workers, tourists, and lunch-seekers from all over downtown. With a great relaxed and fun atmosphere, the park is truly a place for everyone. Be sure to check it out next Friday!

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