Archaeology Update — Foundation for 19th Century Saloon Found

Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research
October 20, 2020

Excavation of duct banks has continued within the Phase I section of the Plaza and along Crockett and Bonham Streets. Much of the sewer and water line replacements have been completed, with no significant artifacts or archaeological features encountered. Currently, the work is focused on the installation of electrical duct banks. During the excavations, the trenches have revealed quite a few gas and other utility lines that had not been marked on the current utility maps.

Much of the soil encountered during the course of the trench excavations have revealed the amount of disturbance that Crockett and Bonham Streets have had over the years. Only a few pockets of intact soils were identified, with even fewer artifacts to help give context.

Excavation of duct bank
Figure 1. Duct bank excavations. A previously installed utility can be seen in the upper portion of the trench in the photo, as well as the light soils that appear to be fill.
Glass fragments next to a ruler to show scale
Figure 2. Glass fragments recovered in a pocket of soil in a trench near the Menger Hotel.

In the few areas that intact soils were found, these also appeared to be in mixed context. A few pockets contained glass fragments, rusted metal and mid-19th to early 20th century ceramic fragments. In addition, evidence of historical utility installations were also noted with one great example of a brick manhole.

20th Century manhole encountered
Figure 3. Example of a 20th Century manhole encountered.
Mid-19th to early 20th century ceramics next to a ruler to show scale
Figure 4. Mid-19th to early 20th century ceramics.

Two features of interest were encountered over the past few weeks. One was located just a couple feet below the surface in western portion of Crockett Street. Remnants of a cut limestone foundation was encountered. It is likely that the majority of the foundation has been removed due to previous construction activities, but this section remained.

The foundation is associated with a one-story saloon and restaurant that is shown on the 1877 Sanborn map (Figure 7). This building remained until before 1920, when it was demolished and replaced by a two-story garage. The footprint of the saloon was overlaid on a current map to better understand where additional remnants could be encountered. To avoid potentially impacting the foundation further, the design was altered to avoid the foundation footprint. This portion of the foundation was preserved in place.

Excavation on Crockett Street
Figure 5. Feature encountered in Crockett Street.
Close up of feature found on Crockett Street
Figure 6. Close-up of feature.
Saloon and restaurant at the corner of Alamo Plaza and Crockett Street on the 1877 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.
Figure 7. Saloon and restaurant at the corner of Alamo Plaza and Crockett Street on the 1877 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.

Another feature encountered during the Phase I utility trench was a portion of the Spanish Colonial irrigation ditch that crossed the area throughout the mission period and was in use until the early 1900s. The irrigation ditch, also referred to as an acequia, was noted in the profile of the trench. In this area, the acequia was just a trench dug into the dirt with no stone lining.

No artifacts were found within the possible acequia location. The profiles of the acequia were recorded and mapped, allowing for the installation of the electrical duct bank to proceed.

The installation of utilities within the Phase I project area should be completed prior to the end of October. Once this work has been completed, there will not be additional archaeological investigations conducted until new projects are developed and approved. The remaining work associated with Phase I will consist of landscaping and installation of hardscape.

Red arrow points to the location of the acequia on the 1896 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.
Figure 8. Red arrow points to the location of the acequia on the 1896 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.