Lee Blacksmith Shop (18BA564)
Site 18BA564 is the archeological remains associated with the early
20th-century Lee's Blacksmith Shop in Cockeysville, Baltimore County.
The former Lee's Blacksmith Shop stood essentially abandoned from the
1940s until 2003, when the roof collapsed and demolition became necessary.
Documentary and cartographic sources provide no evidence of a blacksmith
shop or any other standing structure at the site prior to 1900. The
site sits within a parcel purchased by the Green family from the Ridgelys
in 1889. The $300 purchase price of this 3 acre lot indicates that no
structures were present on this lot at the time of the transfer.
The Green's property went to public sale in 1900 and was acquired by William
H. Rinehart. Documents of the sale reveal that a stable, a corn crib and
springhouse were outbuildings present on the property at that time. Rinehart
sold this property in 1907 to William K. Lee for $1,450. The increase in price
suggests that Rinehart may have been responsible for the construction of the
blacksmith shop between 1900 and 1907. Although there is no documentation
pointing to Rinehart being involved in blacksmithing, if he was responsible
for construction of the shop building he may have built it for other purposes
or he may have leased it to a blacksmith.
In 1907, William K. Lee purchased two lots (including the site) and their
associated outbuildings at the corner of Warren and Bosley Roads from the
Rineharts for $1,450. At this time Lee was 35 years old and, with his wife
Elizabeth, supporting a growing family by his work as a blacksmith. Lee
continued to live on this property until 1942. William K. Lee III, born
in 1931, recalled visiting the shop on Warren Road with his father in 1935
or 1936, at which time his grandfather was spending about half of each day
shoeing horses and the other half repairing automobiles.
The property owner during the structure's dismantling, Ms. L.S. Lyons, was
able to provide a description of the structure to oral historians. The building
was divided into two rooms by an east-west interior wall. The northern room
was larger, while the smaller southern room contained features from the
blacksmith's use (the forge and chimney, an adjacent coal bin, and a work
bench) and a storage loft overhead. Both rooms had wooden flooring. The
building had two entry doorways. Five windows provided natural light and
ventilation for the shop, with two on the west wall and three on the east
wall. The smaller southern room had one window on each of the east and
west walls, while the larger northern room had two windows on the east wall
and one window on the west wall.
The site was first examined archaeologically in 2010 during a Phase I survey of
the proposed construction area for improvements to Warren Road. Phase I
archaeological work entailed surface examination and the excavation of four
shovel test pits (STPs), two placed within the visible stone foundations of
the former blacksmith's shop. The two STPs within the foundation revealed
humic soils with a high density of metal and other artifacts. The other
two STPs (placed south of the foundation) confirmed disturbance of this area
by prior grading. Late 20th century widening of Warren Road had disturbed
the landscape immediately west of the foundation. Essentially the Phase I work
showed that any potentially intact portions of the site lay inside or within
a few meters of the stone foundations. Phase II investigations were, thus,
focused on this core area of the site.
Phase II work combined the mapping of surface features with excavation of
1 m square controlled test units. The 1.5 ft wide stone shop foundations measured
31 X 18 ft and were situated adjacent to Warren Road. They were pointed
with gray, cement-based mortar. Within the southeast corner of the
foundation, the base of the former forge was visible. It measured approximately
4.5 ft square.
Five 1 X 1 m units were excavated by natural and/or cultural stratigraphic
units. Strata over 10 cm thick were excavated by arbitrary 10 cm levels.
Two test units were placed within the foundations, with one south and one north
of the interior partition wall. Two more test units were placed along the
exterior of the foundation wall, adjacent to the forge base feature in the
southeast corner of the foundations. One unit was placed north of the
foundations, as this area had not been tested during the Phase I survey.
Excavations within and near the blacksmith shop foundations revealed that during
the construction of the shop, the natural topography of the building site was
initially leveled. The center of blacksmithing activities would have been the
forge. The most intact elements of the feature are large stones joined with
sand/lime mortar that form a box, which appears to be filled with rubble and
covered with sand. Detailed excavation is needed to clarify the construction of
this feature, particularly whether the tue-iron/tuyre is extant and what its
positioning was, whether the forge was reconstructed or reconfigured, and whether
the forge was built as an integral part of the building or added later.
Excavations within the foundations revealed a series of cultural deposits (between
20 and 40 cm in thickness) overlying natural subsoil. Very high densities of
artifacts were found within these cultural deposits, primarily ferrous metal
debris from blacksmithing and farriery activities. Interpreting these cultural
deposits under wooden floorboards requires recognizing that such subfloor
settings have different site formation processes than dirt floors within
buildings or outdoor settings adjacent to buildings. Subfloor assemblages are
usually attributable to objects falling between floorboards during the use
of the site, but other factors (such as maintenance activities, repair of
the structure, rodent burrowing, structure dismantling, on-site dumping after
abandonment, etc.) can also come into play. Animal burrowing and post-dismantling
dumping have had little negative effect at 18BA564, so the subfloor contexts
appear to be the result of the accretion during use by the other processes.
A total of 7,570 artifacts were recovered during the course of the Phase I and II
research at 18BA564. The vast majority of these (all but two quartz flakes) were
historic in nature and many were blacksmith related, including slag, bar stock,
metal scraps, hardware, tools, horseshoes and farrier objects. Overall the
excavations conducted to date within the core area of 18BA564 have revealed a
variety of cultural features and deposits related to the early 20th-century
blacksmithing enterprise that is documented to have been undertaken there. These
cultural features and deposits display good integrity and, thus, the potential to
yield additional useful information about Lee's Blacksmith Shop.
Historical Trust Synthesis Project)