An array of artifacts dating as far back as the 17th century were uncovered over the past several weeks during an archaeological survey at the Dielman Inn, in New Windsor, helping to build a picture of how the land was used in the past.
According to the Preservation Maryland website, the Dielman Inn is a significant piece of New Windsor’s history. Located at the main intersection of town at High and Main streets, “the Inn has always been an integral part of the economic engine of New Windsor,” according to town documents.
The history of the inn has been well documented, serving as a roadhouse for travelers in its earliest days, a health resort and tourist destination and, more recently, an antique shop and several other small businesses.
In the late 1700s, a portion of the building was originally the tavern of New Windsor’s founder, Isaac Atlee. As the town became known for its sulphur springs, the building and its popularity grew and it became a tourist destination for those wanting to escape summer city living. Louis W. Dielman bought the inn in 1864. It was run by the Dielman family until 1927.
In 2011, the New Windsor Town Council voted to purchase and redevelop the property. Mayor Andrew Green said there are not yet definitive plans for the building other than the stabilization of the foundation, which will be paid for by a $350,000 state neighborhood revitalization grant program.
“That is a decision the Town Council has to make,” he said.
Esther Read, a professor in the ancient studies department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the principal investigator of the archaeological survey, said while the town continues to apply for federal grants to help cover the cost of updating the building, some of those grants require an archaeological survey of the land for eligibility.
Preservation Maryland, an organization dedicated to preserving Maryland’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes and archaeological sites through outreach, funding and advocacy, agreed to complete the investigation for free.
“This is helping the town to position itself to compete for those grants,” Read said.
Westminster and New Windsor residents volunteered to work the site, in addition to UMBC archaeology students looking to get practical field experience.
Read said public involvement in these projects is very important.
“To understand who we are now, we need to understand where our ancestors came from,” she said.
Read, an Eldersburg resident, said she was happy to be involved in the survey as well, since the site is close to home and she enjoys doing fieldwork.
“It’s a win-win situation,” she said.
After several digs, the survey was completed earlier this month.
On the last day, Read said the group found half of a plate with a transfer print within a 3-foot squareunit dug out of the ground, dating back between the 1840s and 1860s.
“It had a beautiful image with a lady holding a fan, a gentleman in the center and flowers around the edges,” she said. The piece predated the Dielmans’ ownership of the building.
Claude Bowen, president of the Archeological Society of Maryland, said the group’s goal was to find out if anything was left underground from the site’s past using shovel test pits, a standard method for Phase I of an archaeological survey that consists of designating test holes, usually dug out by shovel, to determine whether the soil contains any cultural remains that are not visible on the surface. The soil is sifted or screened through wire mesh to recover artifacts.
While several layers of soil were screened for artifacts, glass fragments, clay pipe pieces, pieces of pottery and bricks among other materials were discovered.
The group also discovered the foundation of a wooden pagoda and the remnants of a garden.
“We’re creating a historical timeline” based off the types and location of artifacts, Bowen said. “We call it earth truthing.”
Through archaeological and historical records, “we start to see people taking vacations,” Read said. “People didn’t do that for fun in the 17th century.”
The Charles County Archaeological Society will help clean a lot of the artifacts.
The next step is lab work, which will involve cleaning, cataloging and analyzing artifacts, as well as background research.
“This is the first step in building a picture of how the landscape was used in the past,” Read said.