City Archaeologist Discovers Treasure Trove of Artifacts at Old North Church
The city archaeologist’s latest dig at the Old North Church and Washington Garden in the North End has produced a treasure trove of historic artifacts.
Discovered in “one of the best privies (bathrooms) unearthed in Boston,” the artifacts offer a glimpse into English, Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrant life in the mid-to-late 1800s, from children’s toys to a clay tobacco pipe adorned with a shamrock design.
“The main takeaway here is that history is more than just what’s been written down,” said city archaeologist Joseph Bagley in a release. “Lots of personal stories just get lost to time. Archaeology is one of the best ways to reveal those stories, and bring them back from the past. The people who lived in this house did not have the economic means to really be part of the group who were recorded in Boston’s history.”
Built in 1723, the Old North Church is the oldest surviving church in Boston and home to the first bust of George Washington. Two lanterns were hung in its steeple in 1775 to warn revolutionary troops in Charlestown of the British advance, in response Paul Revere’s legendary “One if by land, two if by sea” signal.
“I’m excited to see the rich history of this historic neighborhood come to life through these artifacts,” Mayor Marty Walsh said. “We’ve explored privies in the North End before, but not one that captures a complete snapshot of the immigrant story. This is an exciting discovery that offers a real-life glimpse into our past.”
In addition to city and neighborhood volunteers at the dig, the program also enlisted the help of amateur sleuths on its Facebook page, soliciting help identifying a possible family crest emblazoned on a shard of pottery. Bagley and his team last dug around the Old North Church in 2013, unearthing more than 40,000 artifacts dating back three centuries.