Kempf House dig
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.
[Originally published in September, 2003.]