Archaeological Site Examination: Orchard House Preservation Project

Author(s): Leith Smith; David Landon

Year: 2002


A preservation program for Orchard House in Concord, MA (Con.-HA-17), the historic home of the Alcott family including Louisa May, author of Little Women (1868), called for extensive structural repairs and construction of a new foundation under the rear portion of the house as well as interior and exterior utility work. Archaeological testing was conducted to identify cultural resources that would be impacted by the proposed project, and to propose alternatives to avoid, minimize or mitigate potential adverse effects. A total of 15 shovel tests and 5, 1 m x 1 m excavation units were completed around the structure’s exterior, while cellar crawl spaces were investigated with 11 additional units. Testing was also conducted west of the house to identify the location of the historic “Path to Town.” Exterior investigations revealed that early occupation surfaces had been stripped off by extensive landscaping activities performed by Bronson Alcott in the 1850s–1870s. Two drainage features potentially dating to this period were identified. Also found was a sheet midden of domestic refuse on the bank immediately north of the house that was associated with tenant occupation during the first half of the 19th century. Cellar investigations revealed the presence of a stone-lined well that was mapped by Thoreau in 1857 and was incorporated into the house preservation plan due to its significance to the site. A pit located below the indoor privy revealed a low density of late 19th- and early 20th-century domestic and plumbing-related refuse. Potentially significant cultural deposits in the form of a filled ravine identified during intensive survey and a filled cellar may still remain intact to the northeast of Orchard House. The site examination finds represent an important contribution to the overall understanding of landscape use and alteration and therefore aid in the interpretation of 19th-century life at Orchard House.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Site Examination: Orchard House Preservation Project. Leith Smith, David Landon. Cultural Resources Management Study ,9. 2002 ( tDAR id: 370123) ; doi:10.6067/XCV879432H

Spatial Coverage

min long: -71.293; min lat: 42.409 ; max long: -71.186; max lat: 42.472 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Jan Turnquist

File Information

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fiske9_orchardhs_rpt.pdf 1.84mb Oct 31, 2011 9:46:48 AM Public