Brick by Brick – Unearthing 18th Century History

BY CHRIS PARKER

Believe it or not, the most exciting part of my summer last August was finding a brick. To fulfill my Eagle Scout requirement to design and lead a community service project, I decided to volunteer at the Jay Heritage Center, estate of Founding Father John Jay.  My prior year of high school was filled with AP US History accompanied by Hamilton soundtrack, so the unique chance to work at Jay’s property enticed me. At first, I had no idea what I wanted undertake there. Then, the president of the Center suggested that I could help with an archaeological dig. She introduced me to a local Professor of Archaeology who was willing to supervise and guide the project.

I accepted enthusiastically and recruited volunteers for my five dig sessions; this wasn’t difficult once I convinced my friends that I was basically Indiana Jones!  In reality, most of the dig time was tedious and uncomfortable, sifting through piles of dirt under the assault of the summer sun. But on September 1st, my friend Christian’s trowel scraped the yellow corner of something that was not rock. We exchanged our clunky shovels for tiny paint brushes and slowly unearthed a hand-made, 17th – 18th century Dutch brick. That day, we spent hours uncovering a dozen more bricks and eventually a metal chimney strap that may date back to the late 1600s and possibly to one of the earliest settlements in my own home town.  The remains of what appears to be a servants’ or enslaved family’s dwelling may not make most people’s heart pound, but my project helped me understand why I want to study history: the moment I pulled that first brick from the dirt, I realized that I was holding was a piece, albeit a small one, of the story of the United States.

Photo above – Chris Parker, center, with friends. Chris received an Eagle Scout Award for his project and will be attending Notre Dame in Fall 2018. 

Read more about this discovery here

Written by jayheritagecenter

Jay Heritage Center (JHC) is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that manages and operates the Jay Estate in Rye, a National Historic Landmark site, as a public park and learning center. The site was once the childhood home of Founding Father, John Jay (1745-1829) his descendants and many other men, women and children - witnesses to the evolution of our country - who left their personal narratives, whether free or enslaved, native or immigrant, on this land. As part of its mission, JHC examines the legacy of Jay and his family together with the stories of the individuals who followed them and preserved this place through their own vision and stewardship. To that end, we host numerous educational programs in American History, Social Justice, Architecture, Archaeology & Environmental Conservation. But we can't do it without our volunteers! Because we receive no annual government funding from the City of Rye, Westchester County or New York State, we rely heavily on volunteers to help us preserve and operate the Jay Estate. This blog, powered by some of our most dedicated volunteers, is one more way for us to share our discoveries, accomplishments and original research with the public in real time. We are immensely grateful to the authors of these entries and oral histories for the investment of effort they have expended on our behalf and yours!

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