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Brick floor and stone walls of a storage cellar at the Baber Hotel.

Baber Hotel

Site ID: 15McL137

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​​​The Baber Hotel was established in Rumsey, a town along the Green River, in 1835. It provided lodging, board, and various types of entertainment to both long-term lodgers and a wide range of travelers. Establishment of the nearby town of Calhoun as the county seat of McLean County in 1854 led to the economic decline of Rumsey. This decline, a series of floods, and the death of founder Charles Baber in 1868 lead to the hotel's closing in the 1870s. In the 1990s, archaeologists from Wilbur Smith Associates conducted extensive archaeological investigations of the hotel site. This work was undertaken prior to a bridge realignment project.​

Transfer-printed “Coral Pattern” whiteware ceramic tea set from Baber Hotel:  a, d-f, saucers; b, c, cups.


​Although the hotel buildings were no longer standing, archaeologists found the remains of the main building, the detached kitchen, and outbuildings. Investigations documented chimneys, foundation walls, below-ground storage cellars, and privy pits. Research revealed that during its relatively short history, the Baber Hotel expanded several times.  

​Relative to contemporary urban and rural residential sites, investigators found larger than expected quantities of expensive decorated ceramic plates. The recovery of fancy china and decorative table glass implied lavish hotel table settings. Alcohol bottles, stemmed wine glasses, and tumblers for whiskey suggested that the hotel had a separate bar. Analysis of discarded animal bones revealed a preference for pork and beef, although the food served in the hotel's early years included more chicken and wild game. At least some hogs were butchered on site in the 1830s and 1840s, but by the 1860s and 1870s, the hotel relied more on commercially purchased cuts of meat. ​

Bone objects: a, umbrella part; b, thimble case; c, d, e, knitting needle guards or ends; f, needle case; g, embroidery tool.

What's Cool?

​Activities for Men and Women​

Investigators recovered a wide range of items from the Baber Hotel site that reflect the leisure activities of its patrons. Items likely linked to male clientele included a billiard ball and a piece of billiard chalk, a die (such as those used in craps or other games), and fragments of three dominoes. Ninety-one tobacco pipes and parts of two spittoons also were found. 

​Women clients are represented by a large assortment of artifacts associated with making and repairing clothing: sewing needles and thimbles, bone needle cases, and bone implements for knitting and specialized embroidery. Some of these items may have been used by hotel staff, who could have provided mending services to customers, but others were likely owned by female clients who spent their evenings in a parlor visiting while mending, darning, knitting, or embroidering.   

​Excavations also recovered parts of musical instruments, such as mouth harps. Documents research discovered that a piano was among the hotel’s furnishings.  

Gaming artifacts: a-g, marbles, h, die; i, domino; j, billiard chalk; k, billiard ball.

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