News

Archaeologists Hit Pay Dirt at UNC President's House

August 22, 2014
UNC-Chapel Hill

Carolina faculty and students often head to far-flung locations to do archaeological field work, but this week, they are unearthing a big piece of the past in their own backyard.

On Monday, a construction crew was preparing to re-surface the driveway of UNC System President Tom Ross’ house on Franklin Street. The driveway curves between his house and the Love House and Hutchins Forum, home of the Center for the Study of the American South. Crew members found what they suspected were historical artifacts in the construction debris, so they contacted archaeologists Brett Riggs andStephen Davis from the 75-year-old Research Laboratories of Archaeology in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

After an initial review of the site, a crew of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students from archaeology, anthropology, religious studies and classics quickly mobilized and began digging on Wednesday.

Archaeologists soon uncovered remnants of what is referred to as “the Second President’s House” in historical accounts of the University. That house was occupied by UNC’s first president, Joseph Caldwell, when he was elected president for the second time in 1816 until his death in 1835. It was also the home of President David Swain from 1849 to 1868. The house was then occupied by several UNC faculty members, including Thomas Hume, who moved in on Christmas Eve 1886. That night, a devastating fire started in an adjacent outbuilding and quickly destroyed the president’s house.

Learn more about what archaeologists found at Pres. Ross' house.