A Report on Archeological Investigations Within the Grand Portage Depot (21CK6), Grand Portage National Monument, Minnesota: The Kitchen Drainage Project
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The site of the eighteenth-century fur trade Depot (21CK6) at Grand Portage has been subjected to intensive archeological investigation for over 50 years. Most of that work has been tied directly to the need for information to assist reconstruction of the palisade and associated buildings. Beginning in 1936, the Minnesota Historical Society conducted excavations to gather basic data on the structural arrangement of Grand Portage prior to the initial stages of development that followed (Woolworth 1963). Since that time, field research has continued intermittently in response to various interpretive and development needs (Woolworth and Woolworth 1982). In recent years, however, most of the archeological investigations that have been carried out at Grand Portage National Monument have fallen outside the confines of the reconstructed Depot (e.g., Noble 1989).

The reported investigations having the most relevance to the present development project are, in fact, those conducted by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1936. In that year, investigators excavated a major north-south exploratory trench through the Depot site west of the Great Hall, apparently through much of the same area scheduled for trenching in 1989. Unfortunately, the results of those investigations are today poorly understood. No comprehensive report of the findings was written at that time, and surviving documentation on the field project is scant.

It is known that the 1936 archeological project encountered the remains of a rectangular structure a short distance southwest from the Great Hall (Figure 3). The small building, which measured 18 ft x 30 ft, is alternately called "Structure 1" or "Feature 12" in various documents on the site (Woolworth 1963:76-78; Woolworth and Woolworth 1982:225- 226, Inventory Form 12). Built of upright posts set in the ground, the structure was sited approximately 6 ft east of an interior palisade line connecting Corner A and Corner Y of the Depot. The structure also appeared to parallel that palisade wall. Records indicate that much of Structure 1 was exposed and excavated in 1936, but it is not clear how much of the feature remains undisturbed (Figure 4).

Figure 3. Location of Structure 1 relative to the Great Hall (Structure 5) and grid baseline (Woolworth 1963:Map 11).

Figure 4. Detail of Structure 1 area based on 1936 excavation records (Woolworth 1963:Map 1b).

Other pertinent excavations are those conducted during 1970-1971 (Woolworth 1975). At that time, investigations were carried out in and around the Great Hall, as well as the Kitchen structure. The Great Hall, which was reconstructed in the years 1938-1940, had been ravaged by fire in 1969. Accordingly, archeological investigations were undertaken in conjunction with its demolition and second reconstruction. At that same time, excavations were initiated in the area of the Kitchen to provide information for its eventual reconstruction.

That research bears upon the drain installation project in two respects. First, the interceptor drain planned for two sides of the Kitchen was designed to fall within the block that was excavated in 1970-1971. Therefore, it was not likely that any cultural resources would be disturbed in that area. Second, those excavations provided data on areas adjacent to other proposed segments of the drainage. That information would prove useful toward the interpretation of any cultural resources that might be encountered during our investigations of 1989.

It is also worth noting that the 1970-1971 excavations showed that ground water about the Kitchen is not a new problem; it challenged the eighteenth-century traders who built the original structure, as well. Woolworth (1975:65-68) reports that he examined two fur trade era drain trenches in association with the Kitchen, one on its north side and the other in front of the structure to the south. The former had been known from the initial investigations of 1936, whereas the latter was a new discovery made in 1970.

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Last Updated: 15-Jul-2009