In 2005 and 2006, the Kentucky Archaeological Survey conducted archaeological excavations focused on Lot 56 located on 33rd Street between Florida Alley and Missouri Street. Lot 56 was first developed during Portland’s rise at the beginning of the steamboat era in the early 1840s. Francis and Barbara Mangin lived at Lot 56 during Portland’s most prosperous time. Shortly after her husband’s death, Barbara Mangin lived there until the house burned in 1856. According to court records, it burned just one day after it was sold to John Young, a wealthy land speculator and businessman from Louisville, who had pressured the widowed Mrs. Mangin to sell the property for half of what it was worth.
Young did not rebuild the house and held the lot until the 1870s when he began to subdivide it into smaller lots. In 1873, a portion of Lot 56 was sold to Henry and Katherine Viet, immigrants from Prussia. Henry ran a shoemaking business on Water Street and built a small shotgun house on a portion of Lot 56. Katherine Viet lived in the house after Henry’s death in 1878, until 1921. The house was demolished in 1934.
The layers of soil documented at Lot 56 during the archaeological excavations tell the story of development there. Approximately six feet from the present day ground surface, archaeologists found layers of soil that contained artifacts and features associated with the Mangin house, such as brick, nails, window glass, and post holes. Included in these layers was a distinct burned layer that included charcoal and burned artifacts. The layers of soil from the Mangin house were covered by several feet of fill and debris. Above the fill were layers and features associated with the construction, occupation, and demolition of the Veit’s shotgun house. They consisted of thousands of artifacts and features, such as the foundation of the house, brick sidewalk, water cisterns, and several privies.
Over 45,000 artifacts were recovered from the archaeological excavations at Lot 56. Most of these were related the buildings that had been constructed and demolished over time, including nails, window glass, and brick fragments. Also, a large amount of artifacts associated with the lives of the people who lived at Lot 56 also was found, such as ceramic dishes, glass bottles, animal bones, buttons, marbles, smoking pipes, oil lamp parts, etc.
The artifacts recovered from the layers associated with the Mangin household included fragments of burned ceramic dishes, bottle glass, and smoking pipe parts, representing items present in the house when it burned in 1856. The ceramics recovered were typical of the 1840s and 1850s, including a large amount of undecorated dishes and examples of mocha and transfer printed decorated dishes. Artifacts associated with the Mangin house also were recovered, including nails and window glass.
Similar artifacts were recovered from the archaeological deposits associated with the Veit family, but were reflective of the 1870s to early 1900s. Their ceramics included a large amount of undecorated white granite and whiteware, the most common type of the period, as well as, porcelain. Some decorated ceramics included late transfer prints, handpainted, and decal types. A large amount of bottle glass was recovered from the Veit deposits, especially from the privies. They included wine, liquor, medicine, pickle, and condiment bottles. Animal bones recovered from one of the Veit’s privies indicate that they preferred chicken over other meats. Most of the artifacts recovered were associated with the Veit’s shotgun house, including mainly nails, window glass, and brick.
The artifacts recovered from Lot 56 show that despite their rather modest incomes, especially the Mangin family, they readily participated in the consumer economy and were able to purchase at least some of the more popular and expensive dishes of the day. It also shows us that there were a wide variety of goods available to them, which demonstrates Portland’s importance as a port. Just about any kind of good was available to the residents of Portland.