The Hamline Village History Project is an ongoing collaborative community research project focused on the early history of the Hamline neighborhood. We are a loose affiliation of people and organizations, including the Hamline-Midway History Corp, Hamline University (especially our archives staff), and a variety of local history enthusiasts, genealogists, and architectural historians. Our goals include helping develop our neighborhood identity through a better understanding of local history and providing educational opportunities for students and interested members of our community through direct participation in excavations and other research.
I am the project archaeologist. My participation is primarily through teaching my ANTH 3130: Excavating Hamline History class. In 2004 my class excavated Hamline University’s original Hall of Science, a massive three-story red brick building erected in 1887 and demolished in 1971. The Hall of Science clearly played an important role as one of the defining institutional centers of the early Hamline community. For example, the first intercollegiate basketball game was played in the Hall of Science’s basement back in 1895. The building also held one of the region’s earliest natural history museums. I remember reading a news story in the school paper about the local excitement over an exhibit of gorillas (presumably stuffed) from the museum’s early years. More importantly, as the third building constructed on campus, and the first dedicated solely for instructional purposes, the Hall of Science demonstrates Hamline’s early commitment to teaching science as an essential part of a university education.
Our 2004 excavation uncovered an intact foundation and corner of the building. One of the more interesting artifacts we found was a marble “H”. We at first thought this “H” was from the “Hall of Science” name plate over the door, but after reviewing the photographic record, we realized this fragment is from Goheen Hall which was torn down just one year earlier. We also recovered a yellow brick presumably from Goheen Hall (amongst hundreds of red bricks from the Hall of Science). So apparently some of the debris from Goheen ended up spread across the site.
The Hall of Science dig convinced me that employing a landscape archaeology prospective will bring real insight into our understanding of Hamline neighborhood history. I will continue to excavate additional sites, like the Hamline Methodist-Episcopal Church site discussed in my original “Old Dirt” blog. Future excavations will focus on residential sites, a search for the train depots, and possibly some commercial or even industrial sites.