Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986

operating. Future research may uncover
the reason for their production. Although
not rare, they are much sought after by
collectors. Ironically, many of those recovered
from this site were cleaned and
sold as used brick along with the commons
for reuse in current buildings. They
have turned up in at least three usedbrick
sales locations in the Austin area.
When excavation operations began,
notable finds were a known possibility. It
was hoped that some traces of early occupancy
might be found. That possibility
was diminished considerably by the realization
that the rear sections of most lots
(and all of Lot 6) had seen several pavings,
twentieth-century installation of
utilities, and the rearward extension of
several of the buildings. These alterations
and disturbances took place in the very
areas where nineteenth-century remains
might reasonably be expected. For example,
although it was possible to pin
down archivally the locations of several
privies (always a good source of discarded
material), finding the remains of one was
another matter. In most cases the indicated
locations had been destroyed when
they were excavated during the laying of
foundations for the extensions to the
buildings which were razed. The only
coherent nineteenth-century deposits,
those undisturbed by subsequent events,
were found along the borders of Congress
Avenue. These are thought to be trash
deposits in the infamous Congress Avenue
Ditch.
The ditch was once described as a
grand gutter for the Capitol. Actually two
parallel ditches, one on each side of the
avenue, served as storm sewer, refuse
dump, wastewater sewer, and in the late
1800s, conduit for sewage from private
sewer systems. A municipal sewer paralleling
the avenue was not constructed until
1885, by which time private systems
had been in operation for about a decade.
The ditches weren't closed off until the
early twentieth century, and rubbish of
every description was washed down their
lengths toward the river. That which was
most perishable is now gone, but such
materials as glass, ceramics, bone, and
some metals survive in the now buried
ditch courses.
As the foundation excavation crossed
the edges of the ditch, an abundance of
artifacts were uncovered. Glass items
were the most numerous. Ranging from
tiny fragments to whole vessels, they in34

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cluded sauce containers, beer, wine and
soft-drink bottles, wide-mouth jars, and
patent medicine containers. Ceramic
frangments were the next most numerous.
Most of these were sherds of thick,
undecorated, commerical-grade whiteware.
No complete ceramic vessels were
found, which is in keeping with the discarded
nature of the deposit. Glass containers,
or at least some of them, could be
discarded whole, but ceramic items were
intended for continuous, repeated use
and were usually discarded only after
being broken. Most glass items can be
dated by characteristics of manufacture.
Likewise, some of the ceramic items carried
identifiable maker's marks. A few of
these could be given dates based on the
founding dates of the companies represented.
Many of the items provided gen

eralized dating of the deposits.These artifacts
dated from about 1880 to 1910,
with most datable items having been
produced before 1903.
Bone and metal items were not as readily
analyzed but they still provided useful
information., Remains of both these materials
were so decomposed or rusted that
only the largest bone fragments and metallic
items survived in recognizable
form. The presence of spongy bone remains,
rust lumps and rust stains showed
the original deposits to have been much
larger. The surviving bone, mostly that of
cattle and goats, showed butchering in
meal-sized portions. Furthermore, all of
the bones were from parts of the animal
normally served with the bone in placethat
is, these were no skulls, teeth, foot
bones-in keeping with the presence of

478-1808

Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45440/. Accessed August 23, 2014.