Cloverfields as of August 2019: Archaeologist Jason Tyler, RPA, Discusses The 300-Year Story Of The Back Kitchen

Figuring Out The Story And Layout of An 18th-Century Service Wing

The 1784 version of the Cloverfields house had a service wing in the back. This newsletter is dedicated to the history of this wing, since the original building of the house in the year 1705 up to now.

In 1784, the wing was approximately 18 feet by 20 feet with a kitchen, loft, and no cellar. It essentially looked like the 3D model below.

3D model of the back kitchen circa 1784. Model updated in July 2019.

The service wing did not exist when the house was originally built in 1705; it was an addition done during the 18th century, which was subsequently renovated a number of times. At the turn of the twentieth century, the kitchen was demolished, and a shed was added. Fifty years later, in the 1950s, a CMU block replaced the shed and divided the area where the 18th-century kitchen used to stand into two sections: one remained outside the block and the other one inside.

This graphic shows the different periods of the cloverfields house from 1705 to present day. items in orange represent the additions during that period.

The floor plans show the evolution of the house during the different periods from 1705 to present day.

In 2018, we started taking the necessary steps to take the service wing back to the year 1784. Jason Tyler, RPA, of Applied Archaeology and History Associate, Inc.has been hard at work excavating and interpreting the archaeological data that has been collected from the former service wing. The preservation plan calls for the reconstruction of the Cloverfields kitchen to its 1780’s form, during the ownership of Col. William Hemsley. The footprint of the 1780’s kitchen was fully excavated, and enough of the kitchen’s exterior was excavated to give Tyler and his archaeologists a good sense for the changing layout of the service wing over time. What they found was a complex sequence of interrelated and overlapping archaeological features that provide essential information for the rebuilding of the kitchen.


Tyler’s initial excavations were hampered by the presence of a mid-20th-century addition made of concrete masonry units (CMU). After Lynbrook of Annapolis had carefully removed the CMU block, Tyler says, “we cleaned up all the excavations again, and then we took additional photos to really get a full picture of the original kitchen.” Archaeologists like Tyler use the vertical and horizontal relationship of archaeological features to reconstruct the way buildings looked in the past. An archaeological feature is a man-made object that cannot be removed and examined in a laboratory, and can be as small as a hole for a single post or as large as a cellar or a brick foundation. Analyzing the artifacts recovered from within the archaeological features helps the archaeologists to understand the age of the feature and what the feature was used for. This has allowed Tyler to partially reconstruct the layouts of service wing structures that have been demolished.

Conceptual 3D model of the service wing in 1784.

Cloverfield’s kitchen and service wing has been altered substantially over time, but each building has left its own unique archaeological fingerprint that has allowed archaeologists to understand how the service wing may have appeared over the past 300 years. The CMU addition that stood at the beginning of the excavations was constructed during the middle of the 20th century and replaced a wooden shed that was probably built around the turn of the 20th century. The version of the kitchen that will be rebuilt as part of the current project  was constructed in the last quarter of the 18thcentury. The original footprint of this kitchen can be seen archaeologically in its brick foundation wall, extending out from the southwest wall of the back building. While part of the wall was destroyed during the mid-20th-century construction of the CMU addition, most of it is remarkably intact. “This larger CMU building was constructed,” says Tyler, “and that kind of cuts the old kitchen into two.” In addition to these brick foundations, the remains of the 1780’s kitchen’s chimney was also identified by the archaeologists.

Four Pre-1780s Features: An Ash Cellar, a Root Cellar, and Two Posts

Perhaps the most interesting discoveries in this area relate to the pre-1780’s use of the kitchen space. Pointing to the remains of wooden posts thought to date to the mid-18th century, Tyler says, “So you can see that this area has been really heavily used over the last 300 years and we think that at least two different kitchens stood in this spot, maybe more.” These exciting finds shed light on the earlier version of Cloverfields service wing, which is less well described in historic documents than that of the 1780’s structure, but no less important.

One particularly noteworthy feature that probably dates to the mid-18th century is an ash-filled cellar that, Tyler says, “even though it fell within the constructs of our kitchen in our period of significance, we think that this cellar actually predates that building.” Tyler continued, “The other thing to note about this is that we do believe that this was wood-lined; we have evidence in the wall that shows where the wood lining used to be.” The cellar was relatively large and placed near a fireplace, and was used to store ash cleaned from the fireplace that would later be mixed with animal fat to produce soap. This was a resourceful way that the residents of Cloverfields could make something useful out of what might otherwise be thrown away. This feature, and the building that probably contained it, was entirely unknown prior to these excavations and demonstrates how archaeology can contribute substantially to the understanding of a historic building like Cloverfields.

Examining the relationship of another cellar to other nearby features, Tyler explains how archaeologists use the relative positions of features to determine whether they are part of the same structure or two structures separated in time. “So, here we have the back wall of the kitchen, from our period of significance, and right in front of it here you can see these irregular shapes in this pit,” Tyler says, indicating one of the features his team has uncovered. “This is where they would put their root vegetables to preserve them in the winter.” Features like this are generally found close to fireplaces so that the vegetables did not freeze during the winter, but not close enough that the fire would cause the vegetables to spoil. “What’s unusual about this one,” Tyler says, “is that it is almost right in the fire’s hearth, so we think that this may actually predate our kitchen from our period of significance…so this must be the earlier kitchen here, and this pit links directly with that.”

 Of course, archaeology is a complex puzzle and sometimes the solution is not immediately clear. At the corner of a brick foundation, Tyler points to a square post hole set into the brick. “So,” he says, “we have the brick foundation, and then we have wooden posts, right here. And we couldn’t work out why there’s a wooden pole right here on the corner.” This prompted Tyler to do some more digging in the area, where he found a second, identical post hole a short distance away. This post hole appeared beneath a late 18th- through mid-19th-century trash midden, meaning the post must have been standing before the trash pit was first used. “These two post holes are definitely related,” Tyler says, “but how do they relate to the kitchen? Were they in use as some kind of lean-to or shared outbuilding? Maybe a covered cellar associated with this kitchen? Or do they, in fact, predate the kitchen here and speak to the former kitchen that was here in the 1750s?” So far, the answer to these questions remains elusive, but Tyler believes “eventually we will get there with some additional archaeology and maybe a little bit of good fortune.”

Back To The Future: Actually Rebuilding the Kitchen

Preservation is a top priority at Cloverfields, and the archaeology is an integral part of the preservation plan. Even rebuilding a historic building may impact buried soil deposits, and each soil deposit contains data that tells a little more of the house’s story. By meticulously excavating the footprint of the c.1784 kitchen, Tyler and his team have ensured that its reconstruction will not inadvertently destroy any important information about the life at Cloverfields. Areas outside the c.1784 kitchen’s footprint will be preserved so that future archaeologists can formulate and ask their own questions of this fascinating house. Tyler and his team are proud contributors to the ongoing stewardship of this important historic site and are excited to see how the archaeological data will be used by Kimmel Studio Architects and Lynbrook of Annapolis to bring the 1784 Kitchen back to life.

Below you can see the masons working on the next step Tyler talks about: the actual reconstruction of the kitchen.

masons reconstructing the brick walls of the 1784 kitchen. photo by Pete Albert

masons reconstructing the brick walls of the 1784 kitchen. photo by Pete Albert

Window and door frames are installed and the masonry built around it at the 1784 kitchen. photo by Pete Albert

Window and door frames are installed and the masonry built around it at the 1784 kitchen. photo by Pete Albert

the 1784 kitchens masonry walls going up. the fireplace and beehive oven will be in the wall at the foreground. photo by Pete Albert

the 1784 kitchens masonry walls going up. the fireplace and beehive oven will be in the wall at the foreground. photo by Pete Albert

By: Devin S. Kimmel, AIA, ASLA, of Kimmel Studio Architects

For: Cloverfields Preservation Foundation