Mechanics Street Site (18AG206)

This project was undertaken as part of the Station Square Project, a major phase in the Canal Parkway Development Project in Cumberland, MD. The Station Square portion of the project included a paved and landscaped parking plaza, the Canal Street Promenade, Station Square Plaza, and a Picnic Grove, all located in the vicinity of the former Chesapeake and Ohio (C & O) canal terminus and the extant Western Maryland Railroad Station. The project area was in a typical commercial district within the oldest part of the city.

Phase I and II investigation identified a portion of the project area which contained significant archaeological resources, the Mechanic Street Site (18AG206).

Intact features and backyard surfaces relating to early and mid-nineteenth century occupation lay beneath modern fill deposits. Phase III data recovery was implemented in order to better understand the development of middle and working class culture in a small town. The Phase III report includes many conclusions regarding social structure, material consumption, economics and capitalism in Cumberland.

Phase II archaeological testing was conducted within the 61 meter (200 ft) wide (east-west) portion of the redevelopment project area. It included the excavation of 21 test units (predominantly 91.5 X 91.5 meter or 3 ft X 3 ft) placed within15 backhoe trenches that were dug into the yards behind the Mechanic Street residential structures. The Phase III project reestablished the Phase II site grid and excavated an additional 15 test units (1.524 X 1.524 m or 5 ft X 5 ft), as well as all features exposed during backhoe removal of overburden and debris. Numerous historic features related to the 19th and early 20th century households present at the site were encountered. Such features included trash pits, post molds/holes, construction trenches, foundations, privies, cisterns, and sheet middens.

Artifacts from Phase II and III include objects from activity related, clothing, furniture, kitchen, faunal, tobacco and architectural categories. Only 9 prehistoric artifacts were recovered. Twenty-six flotation samples were collected from 18 nineteenth-century features which included a nineteenth-century privy, a brick drain, a water stain, several post holes and ash pits, three pits, and two trenches. A complete listing of the plants recovered can be found in the ethnobotanical profile for 18AG206.

This study makes use of both the archaeological assemblages discussed above, as well as historical records to examine, primarily, changing attitudes and social relations during a period of economic transition from mercantile to industrialized capitalism. The excavators found evidence of differential acceptance of this new “industrial” lifestyle by the various households examined in the study area.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Yamin, Rebecca, Margarita J. Wuellner, Stuart Reeve, Priscilla Knoblock, and Charles D. Cheek
  • 1993. Phase I and Phase II Archeological and Historical Investigations. Station Square Project, Cumberland, Maryland. John Milner Associates. SHA Archeological Report No. 62.
  • Cheek, Charles, Rebecca Yamin, Dana B. Heck, Leslie R. Raymer, and Lisa D. O'Steen
  • 1994. Phase III Data Recovery, Mechanic Street site (18AG206), Station Square Project, Cumberland, Maryland. John Milner Associates. SHA Archeological Report No. 69.

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