Evergreen House – Context and the Past

In my last blog, I wrote about amusement parks in Maryland.  In that strange way serendipity works, I was inspired to write about a similar theme this week. On a recent commute, I was listening to a “Stuff You Missed in History” podcast about the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland. I had no idea the building that served as the inspiration for the Haunted Mansion was the Evergreen House on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. A quick Google Image search on both buildings confirmed the similarities between them (Figures 1 and 2).

evergreen house

Figure 1. The Evergreen House in Baltimore inspired the facade of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is set in New Orleans Square, an area within the theme park based on 19th-century New Orleans.  Designers of the haunted house searched to no avail in that city and throughout the Deep South for architectural inspiration for the Haunted Mansion. The inspiration came instead from a mid-19th century Gilded Age mansion in Baltimore, once home to the railroad magnate Garrett family and now a 48-room museum and library.  The museum’s website describes the facility as “an intimate collection of fine and decorative arts, rare books and manuscripts assembled by two generations of the philanthropic Garrett family, and a vibrant, inspirational venue for contemporary artists” (Evergreen 2014).

disneyland haunted mansion

Figure 2. The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland with Thunder Mountain in the background.

danish axe

Figure 3. Danish ax or hammer from the Mayer Collection.

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Update from Smith St. Leonard Site

cellar floor
Alex Glass contemplates mapping the cellar floor brick.

The field crew has been taking advantage of this unseasonably nice weather to continue exploring the presumed storehouse cellar at the Smith St. Leonard site. The test unit now reaches almost six feet below the ground surface and the hoped-for brick floor (see blog entry from November 19th) has finally emerged. The projecting area of brick at the lower right of the photograph is either part of a bulkhead entrance into the cellar or part of a brick hearth. Diagnostic artifacts remain elusive, so we are still unsure when the cellar was filled.

Poplar Forest Artifacts

Recently, artifacts from Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation near Lynchburg, Virginia, have arrived at the MAC Lab. One of two homes that Jefferson designed and created for his own use, Poplar Forest has been designated a National Historic Landmark and the plantation house is operated as a historic house museum. Archaeological excavations on the property continue every year and the artifacts being treated by lab conservators are just a tiny sample of what archaeologists are discovering as they continue to provide information for the restoration of the rest of the plantation’s property.

Treating metal artifacts with tannic acid

Screw-piles in Conservation

Two screw-piles from the Drum Point Lighthouse have just arrived at the MAC Lab for conservation treatment. Screw-pile lighthouses were built on pilings that have been screwed into soft river or sea beds (the “screw-pile” is the piling itself with an auger, or drill bit, attached to the end). This type of construction allowed specifically for the yielding bed of the Chesapeake Bay, and screw-pile lighthouses became widespread in the Chesapeake region. Construction of the Drum Point Lighthouse began in 1883 and workers finished screwing the pilings into place in less than three days – the entire structure was completed in less than 19 days! The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1962 and it was moved from Drum Point, at the mouth of the Patuxent River, to the Calvert Marine Museum in 1975 where the admission fee for the museum includes a tour of the lighthouse. Drum Point Lighthouse is one of only three surviving Chesapeake Bay screw-pile lighthouses.

Conservators use the crane to bring the auger portion of
one of the screw-piles into the MAC Lab.

Drum Point Lighthouse in 1915.

Goodbye to 500 Year Old Canoe

Back in February, we told you that fragments of a 500 year old dugout canoe found near Parris Island, South Carolina, arrived at the MAC Lab for treatment in our vacuum freeze dryer. Conservators have now completed the treatment of the canoe pieces. After packing them carefully for transport, conservators waved goodbye as archaeologists from Parris Island whisked it away home… South Carolina has plans to reconstruct the canoe and put it on display at the Parris Island Museum, a museum that focuses on the history of the island from prehistory through the present.

Canoe fragments after vacuum freeze drying.

Bye bye canoe…bye bye.

Intern Spotlight

There are several new faces at the MAC Lab these days, and one of them belongs to delightful Airiel Scotti who will be interning in the conservation department until May of next year. Airiel comes from Chico, California where she attended California State University, majoring in Anthropology and Museum Studies with a focus on Archaeology. Airiel completed her archaeology field school at an Etruscan excavation in Italy (at one of the oldest operating field schools in Europe – pretty cool). Not only is Airiel excited to be learning conservation, but she is also very happy about the location of the MAC Lab because she enjoys exploring new places and has never been on the east coast before. Currently, along with working at the lab, Airiel continues her education with chemistry classes at the College of Southern Maryland and she is planning to go to graduate school (possibly overseas) for object conservation. With her industrious nature (she has to be forced to take breaks) and big smile we’d love to keep her around forever, but she’s a busy lady with big plans!

Airiel uses tannic acid to treat iron objects
from the Angelica Knolls site in Calvert county