Archaeologists uncover foundation of Maryland's first State House

Archaeologists working at Historic St. Mary’s City have uncovered the stone and brick foundation of the Calvert House.  

Archaeologists uncover the foundation of Maryland’s first state house in St. Mary’s City, Md., Thursday, June 21, 2012. The Calvert House site was identified in the 1980s [Credit: Susan Wilkinson, HSMC/Associated Press]
The structure was built soon after the settlement of Maryland as home for the founder and first Governor, Leonard Calvert.  

This historic structure later served as an ordinary or inn, and a court house, before being purchased by the Province of Maryland in 1662 to serve as the first state house. 

Located in the center of Maryland’s first capital, the building was both the social and political capital for most of the 17th century. 

The last historical mention of the house was in 1695 and it is likely that it was torn down early in the 18th century. 

Current excavations build on work first begun in the 1980s when the site was identified and tested. At that time, sufficient excavation was completed to discover the size of the structure, 66 feet by 40 feet, and to map out its unique layout. 

The foundations show the house was built with two rows of rooms separated by a hallway running through the long axis of the structure.  

Two chimneys were also discovered. Many questions concerning the architecture of the building and its use were never answered. 

This summer’s excavations were planned to address some of those questions. Specifically, the archaeologists are investigating two cellars under the house. 

These were discovered in the 1980s but were not fully defined nor tested. The first is called the “burned clay” cellar and it was created by digging a hole, filling it with wood and brush, and lighting it on fire.  

This baked the clay walls to a bright orange color. For obvious reasons, this cellar is one of the oldest features on the site. 

At a later time, the cellar was filled in and its depth or what it contains remain a mystery. The other cellar is brick lined and perhaps replaced the earlier one. 

While one side of the cellar is known, the interior wall has not been located. Both cellars are being tested this summer. For the first time in 30 years, new portions of the Calvert House foundations are exposed in the excavations. 

These remains will provide new insights on how the structure was built and used. Particularly important will be the junction between the regular foundation and the brick- lined cellar which will demonstrate whether the cellar was part of the original house or a late-17th-century addition. 

Source: The Baynet [June 21, 2012]

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