• Monocacy National Battlefield, Best Farm

    Monocacy

    National Battlefield Maryland

Uncovering Unrecorded Structures

SE corner of the mortared-stone foundation at the Best Farm.

Southeast corner of the addition to the Best Farm stone barn

During a multi-year archeological study of the Best Farm, several previously unrecorded structures were discovered, including an addition to the stone barn, a privy, a cistern, and an icehouse.

Stone Barn Addition

The stone barn at the Best Farm likely dates to the late eighteenth century, and is one of the battlefield's most unique structures. In 2002, archeologists discovered the remains of a 25 foot by 35 foot mortared-stone addition on its south elevation. Recovered artifacts suggest the addition was constructed in the early or mid-nineteenth century, and also indicate that it was damaged by fire.

 
The stone-lined privy at the Best Farm, partially excavated.

The stone-lined privy at the Best Farm, partially excavated.

Privy, Cistern, and Icehouse

The privy measures approximately 6 feet by 7 feet, and is lined with dry-laid stone. Its precise date of construction is unknown, but it is similar to eighteenth-century privies documented at other sites in the area. The cistern is constructed of brick, and dates to the mid- or late nineteenth century. It was used to collect rainwater for household use. According to past occupants of the Best Farm, both the cistern and privy were used until the 1950s when indoor plumbing was installed in the main house.

On occasion, a backhoe was used to explore areas where hand excavation was not feasible. Oral traditions indicated that there was an icehouse in the northwestern area of the yard, which is currently covered by a road. Using aerial photographs, GIS, and landscape survey equipment, the general site of the icehouse was narrowed down and marked. A backhoe was then used to excavate trenches, revealing all four walls of the icehouse. The structure measures approximately 14 feet by 19 feet, and was likely constructed around the same time as the main house.

 
Best Farm icehouse south wall uncovered.

The south wall of the Best Farm icehouse.

So, Why Look for These Structures?

Locating unrecorded structures is useful because it gives park managers and visitors a more complete picture of the historic landscape. Such research also ensures that park management plans do not disturb these areas when future development is undertaken.

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