Our blogger this week is Wes Stauffer an intern for the Cultural Resources Section of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Wes worked for a day in the Section of Archaeology observing our processes and auditing a Cultural Resource Management collection for compliance to our Curation Guidelines.
Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, federal projects require planning and cooperation, in addition to hard work. This proved true when the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation determined that the Bates Road/Weidner Road Bridge over Carley Brook, near Honesdale in Wayne County, needed to be replaced. Built in 1916, it had fallen into a state of disrepair over time. To insure that no important cultural sites were destroyed by the construction of a new bridge, a site survey preceded any site work.
Ideally, background research as well as on-site surveys will locate any important historic and archaeological sites in the area of probable effect (or the area to be impacted by the footprint of a new construction project). Such surveys prove especially important along waterways. Waterways provide food and transportation routes today just as they did for our predecessors. Relatively level, well-drained soils adjacent to water travel routes, as well as the fertile soil in adjoining floodplains, provided prime locations for Native American camps and settlements.
At the Carley Brook site, research and archaeological investigation uncovered a portion of the former Staengle property. Leonard Staengle built a house on the property around 1889, as well as a barn and a butcher shop. Staengle cleared the land and established a small farming operation to supplement his butchering business. Various occupants utilized the property through to present day.
Archaeologists excavated no prehistoric artifacts from the area of probable effect. Approximately 85% of the 302 historic artifacts unearthed reflect kitchen or architectural usage. Research determined that the artifacts reveal an occupation period between the 1890s-1920s, however they were uncovered in a mixed or disturbed context. Furthermore, no building foundations were located. Archaeologists concluded that a former refuse dump lies within the area to be impacted by the construction of a new bridge.
With their research completed and archaeological evidence analyzed, archaeologists felt confident that construction of the new bridge over Carley Brook could proceed without negatively impacting any important cultural resources. All artifacts, donated to the Bureau of the State Museum of Pennsylvania, have been inventoried and archived where future researchers can study them and other artifacts like them.
Cultural resources management, integral to projects such as the Bridge Replacement project over Carley Brook in Wayne County, preserves our heritage and gives residents of Pennsylvania a better understanding of our state’s past communities as well as those individuals who lived and worked within them.