Anne Arundel Grounds Hide History

In anticipation of the demolition of Anne Arundel Hall, there has been a whirlwind of activity around the building as members of both the College and Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) search for pieces of history that have remained hidden underground around the building for centuries.

Ruth Mitchell, Senior Staff Archaeologist for the project, described the process of searching for artifacts as a two-fold endeavor.

“There are two phases when searching for artifacts,” said Mitchell, “first we must search the plow zone, where most of the artifacts can be found.”

The plow zone, near the top of the soil, is in great condition because of the method of construction used for Anne Arundel Hall during the 1950s.

Mitchell explains that when the building was constructed, two feet of soil was brought in to level the hill-side to allow for the protection of artifacts.

Mitchell continued, “We go beneath the plow zone to see if we can find features.”

Features would include posts from old fences, the foundations of buildings, and any other human-made object that penetrates the top levels of the soil.

Since last summer, the team of archeologists working on the Anne Arundel Project have been uncovering relics that have been preserved since before the colonial Marylanders arrived.

Some of the artifacts that have been discovered have included objects from daily life including pieces of tobacco pipes and ceramic pots.

However, the most interesting find so far has been the brick foundation of an unknown building.

Tax records are still being researched to try to identify what this building was used for, but by studying the foundations there are indications that it had a cellar on one side of the building.

The bricks also seem to have been recycled. “The bricks have the same maker’s mark that was found among those belonging to the old brick chapel,” said Mitchell.

It seems to the team that the practice of recycling building materials has been happening at St. Mary’s long before the College was founded.

Over the next few years, Anne Arundel is going to be taken apart in stages to allow for the team to explore the soil beneath the building.

There is speculation that there is an 18th century plantation under the site, but this building still has yet to be discovered.

These searches have also resulted in the discovery of the 17th century Middle Street.

Middle Street was one of the main streets during the time of the original city; it also connected the town center to the local jail, which was located roughly where Kent Hall is located today.

“The archaeological evidence that we are gathering informs us about the past, and how the landscape has changed over long periods of time,” Mitchell said.

“We are learning about the Native American period, the historic 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the modern evolution of SMCM as an institution.”

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