Shields’s Folly: A Tavern and Bathhouse in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia

Author(s): Garrett Fesler; Paul Nasca

Year: 2016


Alexandria Archaeology recently completed excavation of a 12 ft. deep well feature located in the basement of a historic building in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia.  The artifacts recovered from the well indicate that it was filled ca. 1820, when Thomas Shields operated the property as a tavern and bathhouse.  Shields most likely dug the well in order to draw water directly from the premises instead of hauling water from a public pump down the street.  Alas, the story does not have a happy ending.  Shields’s well never reached water.  He soon went bankrupt, due in part to bad timing (the War of 1812 and global economic turmoil), but also because of his inability to convince enough Alexandrians that a warm bath was worth 50 cents.  Our work on "Shields’s folly" has prompted us to think about concepts of hygiene and cleanliness in early nineteenth-century Alexandria.

Cite this Record

Shields’s Folly: A Tavern and Bathhouse in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. Garrett Fesler, Paul Nasca. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 2016 ( tDAR id: 435082)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 562