Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The "Cahokia Courthouse"

Below are a few artifacts from the 1930s excavations at the “Cahokia Courthouse”. They didn’t make the final cut of my recent book on French domestic sites, so I thought I’d share them here.

One of the few eighteenth century vertical log buildings still standing in the village of Cahokia is known as the Cahokia Courthouse. The building was constructed around 1740 as a private residence for the Le Poincet family. In 1793, the house was purchased by the Common Pleas Court of the United States for use as a courthouse, in what was then St. Clair County of the Northwest Territory. After about 20 years as a court building, the structure was sold and converted back into a residence. 

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the 160-year-old house, damaged by flooding and showing its age, had been abandoned. In 1904, it was purchased, dismantled, and hauled across the Mississippi River to St. Louis, where it was exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. After the exposition, the old building was purchased by the Chicago Historical Society, hauled back across the river and reconstructed in Chicago’s Jackson Park. What remained of Le Poincet’s house remained in Chicago until 1939, when it was returned to Cahokia. Prior to its reconstruction, basic archaeology was conducted on the site for the State of Illinois by archaeologist Paul Maynard.

All of the ceramics in this photo predate circa 1770. “A” and “B” are fragments of Rouen-style faience platters. “B” has been drilled with a hole that once held a lead staple, used to repair a break or crack in the platter during the 1700s. “C” is a fragment of a faience plate from Provence. “D” is a tin glazed plate made in Spanish colonial Mexico, and shipped to Illinois via New Orleans. “E” is an unusual serving dish from Italy, known as “Albisola Slipped”. This would have been included in French shipments from Mediterranean ports such as Marseille. Finally, “F” is a fragment of a kitchen bowl made in western France.

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