10 Historic Treasures Discovered in Old Homes

Posted June 7th, 2012
by Isabell Davila (no comments)

Historians may think of America as a fairly young country, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get excited when artifacts from America’s past resurface. Some artifacts are dug up by archeologists at sites suspected of having items of value. However, other items are found right in the homes of American citizens, waiting to be unearthed. Occasionally, such items show up when people are simply looking for something in their attic. Beneath the dust and moth balls may be something of particular value, worthy of display in museums.


  1. Slave Artifacts in Maryland

    An Annapolis house was entirely stripped after its previous tenant passed away to uncover artifacts dating back to the 18th century. According to the New York Times, archeologists found objects in what would have been the slave quarters of the house, in the Northeast corners of the rooms beneath the bricks. They uncovered a mishmash of objects including brass pins, buttons and beads, rock crystals, a piece of a crab claw, disks pierced with holes, a brass ring and bell, pieces of glass and bone, and the arms and legs of a small doll. They believe these items were used in African rituals, which slaves still clung to as part of their historical past. The ritual is likely for healing and good fortune, in which the slaves put together a collection of items with sentimental value, collectively called nkisi.


  3. The Turner House

    Corey Sipe, a contributor to Yahoo! Voices, wrote an article about Issac Ruiz and Virginia Carmany, who own an 18th century home in Chester, Connecticut known as the Turner House. After the couple bought the home in 1999, they set to work restoring it, revealing historical items from the house’s past. Initially, Ruiz entered the home’s crawl space after his cat went missing, and was shocked to find all kinds of items dating back as far as 1890. Carmany described some of the items as a tobacco can, an 1885 glass bottle, horseshoes, canned meats, canned spices, powders, and sassafras. They found glass prescription bottles with “Williams and Carlton, Hartford, Conn.” marked on the side. The myriad of items have helped the couple unveil some details as to the original owners’ lives, as well as subsequent owners down the line.


  5. Outhouse Treasures

    Huffington Post covered a story about archeologist Rebecca Schwendler in Lafayette, Colorado who discovered more than 100 artifacts underneath the old outhouse outside of her home. Schwendler noted that she found curious items such as Model-T parts, syringes used for injecting opiates, prohibition-era alcohol bottles, and Edison light bulbs. She bought the home knowing that it would be ripe with artifacts, and had already suspected that the outhouse would bear its own treasures, because people used to throw things down the hole that they didn’t want others to see. Her collection of items span from the Victorian era, to items from World War I, to items as early as the 1950s.


  7. Eustis Home Antiques

    An abandoned home in Eustis, Florida known as the old Allen Drive house, was left to neglect and deterioration until historian Louise Carter found antiques dating back as far as the late 1800s. The items, which will be preserved at the Eustis Historical Museum and Preservation Society, include a wooden tool chest from 1898, an antique clock, a quilt, ceramic crocks, a flat iron, a hack saw from 1910, and patches, artillery medals, and coins and paper money from World War II. The house itself belonged to the city after previous owners died or walked away from it years back and was in poor shape.


  9. Buck-Chambers House

    In an article posted to the Washington College website, a local house dating back to 1735 in Chestertown, Maryland was being renovated when various historical treasures were discovered. The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience began cataloging their findings for the Washington College Archaeology Lab. They hope to display them at the school. Among their findings were post cards from 1915, an 18th century handwritten letter, The Frankford Dispatch newspaper from March 17, 1905, a copper cent from the 1830s, a children’s book from 1848, and early clay pipe stems from the 18th and 19th century.


  11. Liberace Artifacts in California

    While it may not be historical in a textbook sense, Liberace still has pop cultural value. Thus, when a San Diego woman found 80 boxes of Liberace’s things in her attic she sent them to New York to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, according to a The New York Times article. The owner of the home, Helen Meyers, was friends with Liberace and his lover, and had boxes with characteristically flamboyant items such as bejeweled bowties, outfits for his dog, a miniature silver piano, excerpts from his in-the-works memoir, and tabloids pertaining to lawsuits. Some of the items were gifts from Sammy Davis Jr. and Boy George. There were also boxes containing Liberace’s aprons with cooking stains still on them.


  13. Italian Artifacts in Berwyn

    A house in Berwyn, Illinois was found to be brimming with Italian artifacts. The Chicagoist details the incredible findings of 3,500 different items in the home previously belonging to John Sisto. Some of the most striking items include ancient terracotta figurines, letters from popes, and a handwritten manuscript by Benito Mussolini. Federal authorities believe that at least 1,600 of these items were stolen from Italy to be sold in the United States. The items are to be shipped back to Italy, and while the United States officials are withholding any charges against the remaining Sisto family, Italian authorities may take their own action. The oldest of the artifacts date back to the 4th Century BC.


  15. Indian Artifacts in Canton

    An article for the Hartford Courant describes Canton native Tim Dyer’s remarkable discovery when he went to clean out his mother’s attic after she passed away. Dyer found dozens of arrowheads and other Native American artifacts in a cardboard box in the attic. He identified them as belonging to his grandfather, Thomas C. Dyer Senior, who collected them growing up. When the artifacts were donated to the Canton Historical Museum, Dyer found out that his grandfather’s collection dates back 1,000 to 4,000 years ago. Many of the spearheads come from the Archaic Period. There were also axes, adzes, hide scrapers, and stones used to grind nuts.


  17. Painting in the Attic

    According to the Marietta Times, John Buell was merely nosing around his grandfather’s attic in Weston, West Virginia when he found a large, dust-covered painting. Upon asking his grandmother, she said the painting had been in the family since the 1930s. As it turns out, the painting was “The Battle of San Jacinto,” a famous 1901 painting that had been missing for close to a century. Buell’s great-great-grandfather, Henry Arthur McArdle, painted the piece as a commission a few years after he painted a mural of the same scenario for a wall in the State Senate Chamber of the Texas Capitol building. He kept the painting for himself when the patron who commissioned him failed to pay full price for his work.


  19. Historic Documents in Chicago

    NPR recalls when Rufus McDonald, head of a demolition crew, stopped his men from destroying a chest they found in an abandoned Chicago home that was to be torn down. The chest contained documents, books, and photographs belonging to Richard Theodore Greener, the first African-American to graduate from Harvard University. McDonald found Greener’s diploma and law license in the trunk. The black scholar graduated in 1870 and went on to teach at University of South Carolina. Later, he became dean of Howard University’s law school and served as a diplomat in Russia. Greener was a premier figure in the United States representing race relations. McDonald has yet to let go of his findings until he finds someone willing to pay a respectable amount for the collection.

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