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Kempf House dig

 

continued

To find the site, Beisaw made a grid on the property and took core samples with an auger every five feet. She discovered evidence of a former gravel driveway, a subterranean pile of bricks possibly from a renovation project, a pile of coal at the back of the property, and the likely privy site beside the house — the archaeologists couldn't dig there because the museum's sprinkler system ran through the site. Excavation in the coal pile unearthed everything from nineteenth-century clay pipe stems to dainty carved-shell buttons. An elegant furniture caster came to light, as well as chicken, duck, and cow bones, a slate pencil, a stone marble, a handle for lifting stove lids, a fragile fragment of a china doll, and a ruler that may have belonged to a tailor who once lived in the house. A delicate tuxedo button prompted Bacon to reflect, "Mr. Kempf used to give concerts." My favorite item was an old-timey medicine bottle, preserved intact. Beisaw traced it to nineteenth-century Illinois druggist Robert George. There was no indication of whether it had contained healthful celery tonic or one of the opium-based "soothing syrups" common in Victorian times. "They probably would put a little hooch in it, too," observed Bacon.

The artifacts are on display at Kempf House September 7 through 30.    (end of article)

[Originally published in September, 2003.]

 

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