Skip navigation
Share this page

Home | Exhibits | Publications | Web Resources | Contact Us


No archeological sites have been reported in Reservation 8, the project area. Few prehistoric resources have been found in the vicinity. One white quartz projectile point was recovered in 1943 at Site 51NW50, located at the National Guard Memorial (at the west end of Jackson Alley, near the intersection of North Capitol Street and Massachusetts Avenue). A point was found in excavation at Square 530, but there was no evidence of in situ prehistoric deposits (Cheek et al. 1996).

During the last few years, investigations have been undertaken at several historic-period sites in downtown Washington, D.C., in the vicinity of the Patent Office Building. These projects have each contributed to understanding the historic archeological resources in the historic city center (Figure 16).

The site of the proposed D.C. Convention Center (Squares 400, 401, 402, 424, 425, and 426) had been graded and thus already lost archeological resources that might have been present (National Capital Planning Commission 1996). Data recovery investigations were recommended only for nineteenth-century deposits in two areas of Square 426 (Abell et al. 1999).

Directly north of the Patent Office Building, the site of a pottery operated by Enoch Burnett and Richard Butt from 1843 to 1860 was investigated on Square 428. The site is the only one known of its type within the original city of Washington (Walker et al. 1989).

Archeological excavations at the site of the Washington, D.C., Civic Center (Squares 344, 373, and 374) in 1980 investigated deposits from a mid-nineteenth-century middle-class neighborhood northwest of the Patent Office (Garrow 1982). This investigation applied artifact pattern analysis to the data, which proved to be an important contribution to understanding the archeology of urban neighborhoods.

Investigations on the northern portion of Square 375 revealed a historically interesting neighborhood, but late-nineteenth-century grading removed deposits that might have been associated with earlier occupation. The few surviving deposits could not be associated with documented occupants, and no additional work was recommended (O’Brien and Seifert 1995; Balicki and Cheek 1995).

Phase II and Phase III investigations conducted at the Warner Theatre, west of the project area, in 1990 excavated archeological deposits associated with dwellings on E Street and Slate Alley, in the interior of Square 290. Deposits dating from the late eighteenth century through the 1920s were identified, reflecting commercial and domestic activities (Goodman et al. 1990).

Archeological investigations for the Federal Triangle Project (Squares 257 and 258) documented the archeology and history of historic Hookers Division, a Washington, D.C., turn-of-the-century red-light district. Excavations revealed deposits from working-class households dating from the 1830s to the 1930s. Although the neighborhood included commercial, industrial, and residential buildings during most of the nineteenth century, brothels dominated the neighborhood from the 1890s until they were closed in 1914. The neighborhood consisted of working-class households until 1930, when the remaining buildings were razed for the construction of the Federal Triangle (Cheek et al. 1991; Seifert 1991).

Archeological excavations by the National Park Service at the Peterson House, located on Square 347, investigated structural remains and artifact deposits inside the house where Lincoln died, across from Fords Theater. Well-preserved deposits from the early and middle nineteenth century were excavated, which had survived later construction (Virta 1991).

Investigations on Square 377 (Ninth and B Streets) documented prehistoric occupation (represented by non-diagnostic lithics) as well as historic occupation from 1797 to the twentieth century. The archeological resources documented the changes from estates and detached houses to narrow row houses, occupied by business and residences (Artemel et al. 1990). The investigation of resources from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries provided an important contribution the archeological literature.

Investigation of domestic lots in Square 406, south of the Patent Office, addressed stratified yard deposits on two residential lots that had been occupied from the I 820s. These were associated with middle-class bureaucrats who rented the houses (Culhane and Seifert 1999; Cheek and Corle 1999; Balicki et al. 2001).

Investigations at Square 457, southeast of the Patent Office, addressed the potential for archeological resources. This square is within the portion of the federal city that was developed in the early nineteenth century, and historic maps indicate that the square was developed by mid­century (Pappas et al. 1993).

U.S. Reservation C, the site for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall, was the site of several row houses, alley dwellings, and one of the largest brothels in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. Data recovery investigations addressed deposits associated with working-class occupants of the row houses and the brothel (Seifert et al. 1998).

A Phase I documentary investigation of Reservation 10 revealed that the ground surface had been lowered three to fifteen feet during construction of the courthouse (Cheek and Pitts 1999). Historically, the area had been used for hotels and boarding houses for people attending Congress or working for the Federal government, but lowering of the original surface had removed cultural deposits associated with these buildings.

East of the Patent Office, archeological investigations conducted at Square 530 recovered data on the occupation of renter and owner households occupied between the I 840s and the I 870s. Research questions focused on issues of consumer choice and spatial organization of house lots, addressing differences between household composition and property ownership (Cheek et al. 1996).

Data recovered from Square 455, the site of the DC arena directly east of the Patent Office, were used to address the history of sanitation and public utilities in the District of Columbia, domestic procurement and storage of water, as well as the use and organization of the urban yard and material culture of the square’s occupants. Analysis reflected the association between middle- and upper-class households and off-site refuse disposal (Glumac et al. 1998).

A Phase I study of a parking lot on Square 453 revealed preserved deposits of alley dwellings constructed in the late I 830s. Mean ceramic date of the assemblage recovered at the site was 1833 (Gardner and Anderson 1994).

Investigations on Square 516, northeast of the project area, in 1987 concluded that the square had the potential to contain nineteenth-century archeological resources (Friedlander and LeeDecker 1987). Subsequent investigation in 1990 recovered over 3,500 artifacts from three excavation units. Documentary sources indicated that the square was first improved in the I 840s, and artifacts indicate deposition into the I 880s. The ceramic inventory suggests that residents of low socioeconomic status occupied the square. No prehistoric artifacts were recovered (Sorensen and Dent 1990:90-93).