Davenport House: Using Archaeology to Enhance Interpretation

Next in our student blogging series is Rebecca Hinely, who writes about her visit to the Davenport House. This historic home has recently used archaeology to learn more about the Davenport family and other who have lived in this house.

Davenport House: Using Archaeology to Enhance Interpretation

If you want to have a wonderful time while enjoying a little of Savannah’s history, you should visit The Davenport House. This beautiful example of architecture was built in 1820 for Isaiah Davenport and his ever growing family. Over the years it has served many purposes from being a family home to being used as a boarding house until it was finally purchased by the Historic Savannah Foundation. The Davenport House is currently open as a historic museum, which allows you to see the beauty of architecture and interior design from the 1800’s.

This home marked one of Savannah’s most important movements. When the city of Savannah marked it for demolition in 1955, a few citizens came together and decided to form a group dedicated to preserving Savannah’s beautiful history. This group became the Historic Savannah Foundation and is responsible for most of the beautiful historic homes that are still standing in Savannah today.

In 2013, plans to make changes to the basement prompted archaeological research of the property. By using GPR, or Ground Penetrating Radar, along with historical documents, archaeologists were able to identify five areas ideal for excavating. These areas were in the garden as the basement proved to be void of artifacts other than small features relating to the construction of the house and modern anomalies such as water pipes and drainage.
Some of the artifacts found included animal bones, brick and mortar, glass, tobacco pipes and of course oyster shells, which were a major construction material in 1800’s Savannah as an ingredient in tabby. One of the most interesting finds was a privy near the edge of the property that was not included on any of the historical documents. The results of the fieldwork in 2013 helped paint a picture of Davenport’s life and others like him who lived in the 1800’s and are currently being used as resources for interpretation at the museum.

It was interesting to see the home that started the historical preservation movement in Savannah. Without the efforts of these few people Savannah may not be the historic landmark we know today.

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