Bathroom Area: Mitigation for the Proposed Site of the Mansion Bathrooms on the North Rear Lawn

Abstract: In the winter of 2007/2008, plans were made to install bathrooms near to the house to provide more immediate toilet facilities for both guests and staff, as at the time the closest public facilities were at the Visitors Center. (At the time of writing, a single bathroom is available in the Archaeology Laboratory, but the Visitors Center bathrooms remain the most accessible.) Ahead of development, the footprint of the proposed bathrooms was the subject of an archaeological investigation in March-April 2008 that coupled unit-based excavation with subsequent monitoring of backhoe operations.

As with adjacent areas, e.g. the excavations of the rear lawn (Tinkham, et al. 2009), the Bathroom Area investigation revealed evidence for the landscaping around them mansion in the early-19th century. This massive undertaking also involved the underpinning of the mansion by Hugh Chisholm and the removal of approximately 4,500 bricks that were subsequently used to level out the new Picturesque landscape (Tinkham, et al. 2009; Trickett 2010c). The Bathroom Area was determined to contain a series of landscaping activities, from the initial scalping of topsoil using a bucket grader and plow and the re-deposition of this soil. At same later date, a clay and architectural material layer is placed in the area, and an erosional or re-deposited topsoil placed over that, and almost immediately after an additional clay layer—likely from the excavation of the wing kitchens or the ice house under Mr. Madison’s temple—was deposited to level the area.

Beyond the stratigraphy and the parallels to other areas in the rear lawn, the area also revealed plow scars associated with that landscaping, and a number of truncated features, potentially planting or tree holes associated with the original Georgian landscape of Madison, Sr. (Bence 2008).

Diagnostic artifacts were recovered from the site, primarily from a 19th-century planting hole that indicated the primary phase of activity in the area was late-18th and early-19th century. Similarly, metal detector survey revealed blacksmith materials that, as above, were likely derived from the excavation of the ice house within what was in the 18th century a smithy complex. The primary dating evidence for the site, however, came from the architectural material layer that can be directly linked to similar deposits and the underpinning of the mansion in the 1809-1812 building period.

Based upon the archaeological record, it was determined that there was little to hamper the construction of the bathroom facilities in the proposed footprint. At the time of writing, however, no bathroom facilities have been constructed.