Archaeology program centers on square
Corydon became the capital of the Indiana Territory in 1813, Indiana’s First State Capitol Building was built between 1814 and 1816 and the current Harrison County Court House was constructed in 1929. During that 100-plus-year stretch, Michele Greenan, director of archaeology for the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, said, one of the more interesting and still elusive mysteries of the Corydon town square has yet to be answered: where did people use the toilet?
Indoor plumbing on the square wasn’t available until the courthouse was constructed in 1929, and there’s no verified record of where an outdoor privy would have stood on the square.
Despite the state’s best efforts, using intricate mapping and sensing equipment that located the unseen remnants of a variety of buildings and walkways on the current town square, the exact site of downtown Corydon’s outhouse remains unknown.
But finding where the state’s founders went No. 2 wasn’t the No. 1 priority of Greenan and her staff as they prepared for the renovation of the town square. Their job was to identify archaeological locations and then mark them so construction crews could avoid those areas. Even if it meant trying to decide if a coal house was maybe an outhouse.
Corydon’s town square ‘ identified as the East Square, with the original West Square being the block on the west side of Capitol Avenue ‘ is in the midst of a massive, million-dollar makeover to get the square ready for Indiana’s bicentennial next year, as well as assure that the First State Capitol Building will stand for at least another 200 years. The project is currently on schedule and is expected to be completed by October.
During her presentation Thursday evening, Greenan shared some of the data that was compiled: the area around the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand has been filled with dirt numerous times because it used to be the site of a pond (which helped give the adjoining street the name ‘Beaver Street’); digs on the square yielded a few objects (nails and a few buttons); and the sidewalk on the east side of the square may not have been where the original sidewalk was located.
Regarding the First State Capitol Building, Greenan said because the square is the site of an ancient riverbed, the location holds water, which is a problem for the 200-year-old structure.
‘I know from the folks at the Capitol site that water has wicked up the stone and they actually had moisture on the ceiling on the first floor,’ Greenan said. ‘We will dig down and take care of the drainage issues with the building. I am 100 percent sure of that.’
Also discovered in the dig on the square was flat-glass that predates the First State Capitol Building. Some of the glass was from approximately 1837 and 1814, with the age being based on the thickness of the glass.
‘We don’t know if the glass was pre-bought when the building was being planned, or maybe the exact date of when the building started going up is off a little bit, but it’s definitely interesting,’ Greenan said.