Louisville Magazine

NOV 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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42 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 11.18 e buildings have nothing left to give. Half sit empty, awaiting demolition, awaiting what's next. So archeological excavators claw. Brick and siding crumble, messily but obediently. e Beecher Terrace public- housing complex, built in 1941, is a 760-unit barracks-style development now long out of fashion and well-worn. Watch the methodical deconstruction and thoughts gallop forward — to the $264-million renovation of the site and revitalization of the surrounding Russell neighborhood. What will it all look like in five or 10 years? Glance one block over, to the Old Walnut Street Park at Ninth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. A bundle of hard hats and bright-orange safety vests busy themselves in the dirt — not just surface dirt but deep dirt, layers of dark brown, light brown and yellow brown, a tiramisu of silt, sand and clay. ese workers are only preoccupied with the past. ey are archeologists examining life before Beecher Terrace even existed, back into the mid-to- late 1800s and early 1900s, when the neighborhood was a dense cluster of Jewish, German and Irish immigrants alongside African- Americans, many of whom were established professionals, like the 25 black doctors, three black photographers and two black dentists who called Russell home in that era. When the city received a $30-million-dollar federal Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant in 2016, helping to kick- start the massive Russell project, part of the grant required a historical review of the land. Would planned construction damage historic elements, including artifacts below ground? Enter Corn Island Archeology, a local team of veteran archeologists delighted to scoop at the earth, several shallow scrapes at a time with a trackhoe, as not to destroy anything precious. On the good days, trenches they've carved produce piles of dirt dotted with artifacts like porcelain dolls, pieces of ornate dishware (perhaps from a German household particular about their Victorian-era dining), pigeon bones likely tossed by a poor family ripping the meat for use in a stew, and toothbrushes made of hog's hair and bone. Most of the recovered items from the Beecher Terrace site include kitchen pieces like this "banded" or "dipped" creamware. This sort of intricate kitchenware was relatively cheap and easy to come by in the early-to-mid 1800s. A large, four-gallon jar that may have been used for storing sauerkraut or pickles.

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