The archaeological excavations at the Portland Wharf site have revealed the remains of the town of Portland during the nineteenth century and information about the people who lived and worked there. Archaeology has demonstrated that literally a town is buried beneath the fields and forests of the Portland Wharf Park. Its streets, sidewalks, building foundations, and parts of the wharf itself still exist and have much to tell us about life when Portland was a prosperous river town.
Archaeology at Lot 56 demonstrated that the story of this property and the people who lived there is documented in the layers and artifacts present at the site. We have an opportunity to examine the Portland Wharf’s history from its heyday to its decline. The Mangin family represents early days of Portland settled mainly by French immigrants and its quick expansion commercially and residentially as the steamboat traffic and the portage industry increased. The tragedy of their home’s demise and of a recent widow’s life is documented in the archaeological record. The Veit family represents the end of the prosperous time and of independence. They arrived in Portland during the pinnacle of commercial activity opening a shoemaker’s shop, eventually building and owning a house just down the street from the business. The archaeological remains have allowed archaeologists to reconstruct their modest shotgun house and examine the effect of severe flooding and the decline of the portage industry. The Veit family represented the new Portland with its many successful businesses and its transformation into one of Louisville’s neighborhood after 1856.
We have learned that there is a great deal of archaeological potential at the Portland Wharf site. As we continue to study the artifacts that have been recovered and conduct more excavation in the future, we will be able to learn more about the town that was located there and the people who lived there.