Lanier Dig

Archeologists uncovering history
beneath Lanier Mansion outbuildings

State officials plan to build
a replica of the carriage house

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (March 2003) Work halted during the winter but will soon resume on Lanier Mansion State Historic Site’s most recent archeological project to uncover the remains of a carriage house and summer kitchen.
One small area along the southeast corner of the summer kitchen wall is all that remains to be excavated, said historic site manager Link Ludington. The remaining area will be uncovered sometime in early spring shortly before construction begins on the interpretive center, Ludington said.
An archeological crew headed by Bill Wepler, curator of Historical Archaeology of the Indiana State Museum, has already exposed most of the remains, including the brick foundation. The crew has uncovered some relevant pieces of Lanier history, including evidence of two rooms. One was a kitchen with an attached L-shaped shed, which became the carriage house. Another was a small 10-foot-square privy, according to Wepler.

Bill Wepler

Bill Wepler at work
during last fall's dig

The buildings predate the mansion, Wepler said, and were probably constructed in the 1830s to serve James F. D. Lanier’s original dwelling, which faced Elm Street where a garage now sits. The original Lanier home was built between 1825 and 1831 and, according to newspaper advertisements for scrap materials from the home, was demolished after the Civil War.
According to maps and lithographs, it appears that the group of buildings that included the summer kitchen and carriage house remained for several years after the original house was demolished, Wepler said. After the construction of the mansion, the buildings were formally tied together as one structure, but, for reasons not entirely apparent, the buildings were torn down around 1900. His crew has uncovered portions that remain of the brick foundation of the buildings, which will be used in the interpretation of the site.
In addition to the structural foundations, remains of ceramic dishes, some dating prior to the 1830s and animal remains, such as scraps consistent with food preparation have been found.
Elizabeth Scott, part of the archeological team from the state museum, said that while working at the site she uncovered the remains of pig, sheep, goat, cow and bird. Scott has worked on and off at Lanier for about a decade and will use information she has gathered in completion of a master’s degree in archeology from Ball State University.
Archeological excavation has been an ongoing project at Lanier since 1992 and has included work on the layout of the gardens and location of various buildings that once stood at the site. Switzerland County High School teacher Leon Hostetler has worked closely with Wepler in excavating the site. According to Wepler, in addition to working at the site, Hostetler developed an educational program through which students who volunteered at the dig could receive high school credits.
Wepler said that besides the current carriage house project, the Lanier site offers many more archeological opportunities, including uncovering additional landscaping evidence and the original house.
“There’s a lot going on here,” said Wepler.
The overall objective of the kitchen-carriage house project, said Ludington, is to construct a replication of the building over the area that is now being excavated.
Ludington said that exhibit design teams have recently met in Indianapolis to work on plans for exhibits in both the carriage house and the new visitors’ center, where administrative offices for Lanier Mansion will soon relocate. The new visitor’s center building will be located at 601 W. First St., adjacent to the mansion.
Ludington said he hopes to be able to begin moving equipment and furniture to the new office sometime in March. After the move is completed, then the carriage house project will become the primary project of the historic site, Ludington said.

Back to March 2003 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta