St. Louis Community College conducted an
archaeological field school in downtown St. Louis, MO at 2701 Samuel Shepherd Drive
during the summer of 1991. The specific location (originally 2701 Lucas Avenue) of
the excavation units was along the western edge of lot no. 1 and the eastern edge of
lot no. 2 in block 982. The UTM coordinates are Zone 15, 4279910 Northing and 742350 Easting.
St. Louis Community College Crew during summer
of 1991 excavating in downtown St. Louis, MO. The excavation was within the boundaries
of the Scott Joplin State Historic Site.
The field school was directed by Professor Michael
Fuller with the assistance of John Dendy (Washington University graduate student and
adjunct faculty at SLCC).
The excavations were carried out while restoration
work was being conducted (approximately 100 meters to the northeast) at
the historic site where Scott Joplin lived. Annette Bridges
(Dept. of Natural Resources ranger for the park and expert on the property) selected the lot at 2701 Samuel Shepherd
Drive because DNR was planning to create a "Ragtime Garden" on this location. The
work was coordinated with Larry Grantham (DNR archaeologist) and Booker Rucker
(chief of historic sites for DNR).
The Scott Joplin home was on the verge of collapse
during the summer of 1991 after brick thieves had robbed out many of the back walls of the
The restoration of the Scott Joplin house was a major
triumph for historic preservation in downtown St. Louis. The interior of the house includes
museum displays about Scott Joplin, Ragtime music, and the results of the St. Louis Community
College archaeological excavation.
The fieldwork began on May 20, 1991. A metric
grid was extended from south to north along the border of lots 1 and 2.
College students worked each morning and processed the
artifacts during the afternoon.
Virginia Schumacher (secretary in the Social Science Dept. at St. Louis Community College at
Florissant Valley and student in the class) bags and tags various historic artifacts from
her excavation unit.
SLCC students sort through screened dirt to collect small artifacts and ecofacts.
The most common object in the screen was fragments of fired bricks.
The archaeological and historic research indicated that the team from SLCC
were excavating the remains of a 19th century store which was demolished after the
1969 or 1970.
Piles of screened dirt accumulated in the unexcavated portions of the lot. The
store was operated by John C. Hammer.
John Dendy (left) helps students determine how to bag and tag debris found in the sifters. The
Hammer family owned three grocery stores in the city of St. Louis during 1900. It is very
likely that Scott Joplin and his wife shopped in this store as it was the most
convenient one to their home.
A broken iron star was found in situ (in place) where it had fallen when the
Hammer store had been demolished. The Hammer store closed in 1945 and reopened as Chas. Vaughn
Liquors. The building would function as a liquor store and lounge under many names during the
1950s and 1960s.
Bricks outline the location of a chimney for the Hammer grocery store. The second floor of the
John C. Hammer store
was used as a residence while the ground floor was commercial space.
In situ photograph of a broken ABC china plate. This artifact belongs to the 19th century
use of the building.
One excavation unit yielded a deep pit feature that looked like a privy, but did not
contain the type of soil or artifacts typical of a privy in St. Louis.
The pit feature was a window well for the basement
of the store. It had been intentionally filled with debris as a method of securing the
basement of the building during the 1930s or possibly earlier.
Final photograph looking south of the excavation units and the foundations of the
John C. Hammer grocery store.
A thousand thanks to Ms. Annette Bridges. Her hardwork was instrumental in the
preservation and restoration of the Scott Joplin House. She helped make the
dream of a downtown archaeological dig possible.
ABC whiteware plate decorated with raised letters, transfer print, and 3 zones of hand
applied paint (light blue, dark green and light green). The transfer print shows a woman,
watching out of a window, as her two boys play. A text at the bottom of the print
reads "Tom and Harry Playing at Horses." The plate was broken before or during deposition in
a filled window well. The glaze shows very little evidence of wear; the plate was either an
unpurchased item in the John C. Hammer store inventory or a "keep sake" object that had been
heirloomed. The ABC series of ceramic plates and pressed glass plates were produced during the
mid and late 19th century. The plate measures 13.3 cm. (5.25 inches) in diameter. This plate
is on display in the Scott Joplin House Museum.
Fire brick embossed with "EVENS & HOWARD ST. LOUIS." It measures
9 x 4.5 x 2.5 inches and was discovered in the surface locus (001) of
Square 3. The brick was broken during the buildings demolition by
Operation Greenlot. The Evens & Howard Fire Brick Company began operation in 1857 and continued
to operate through the 1930s. Fire bricks are manufactured to withstand the stress of
repeated heating and cooling. The clusters of bricks in Square 3 were related to a collapsed
Drawing of a glass bottle, possibly for soap, with corroded metal cap from the excavations.
Probably a mid-20th century artifacts
Drawing of a metal (aluminum or tin?) heart shaped love charm given to Linda Hall in 1960
by R. D. One of the last artifacts left behind in the house during the last years
before its demolition.
Drawing of a clear glass bottle of a style associated with over-the-counter medications sold during
the 20th century. Excavated from the surface locus (001) of Square 8.
Drawing of the metal tip to a syringe found in the upper loci of the excavation. These could belong
to a diabetic, but it seems more likely that they were used by heroin addicts during
the 1960s before the buildings demolition. From 1964 to 1970 the abandoned store was used by
vagrants, drug users and militant groups. Several broken syringes and spent bullets were found in
the upper soil layer of the excavation units.
Webpage created by Professor Michael Fuller (STLCC-MC) on 18 May 2005 based upon his fieldwork conducted during summer of 1991.