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The rear yards of shotgun houses that faced Center Street

Center Street

Site ID: 15Wa116

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


​​​​​​​​​​​In 2004, archaeologists investigated the remains of a small, mid-nineteenth-century farmstead along Center Street in Bowling Green. Work was carried out​ prior to the construction of the KY Route 185​ by-pass extension. Covered by an urban neighborhood, intact architectural remains revealed that the area had changed greatly over time as Bowling Green expanded. The property was originally a seven-acre parcel located just outside the town’s main business district. Prominent doctor John M. Briggs built his residence on this parcel, as well as houses for some the 14 people he enslaved there from the 1820s to 1840s.  

The remains of several small domestic buildings were likely some of the slave houses. Their spatial distribution revealed that Briggs had organized his farm much like larger farmsteads located further from town. Briggs eventually sold off most of his land except for the lot where his house stood. Later owners farmed the property and lived in and rented out some of the former slave houses. Eventually, an urban neighborhood was built on top of the remnants of Briggs' farmstead. 

The remains of a pit cellar for a slave house.


​​Archaeologists documented foundations, pit cellars, postholes, trash pits, and walkways at Center Street. These remains and many of the artifacts recovered - window glass, nails, and bricks - were associated with the property's various buildings.  Some bricks were handmade and featured a depression in one side. This is known as a “frog,” which helped the mortar more effectively bond bricks together. These bricks were part of an 1830s slave house foundation that had been mostly removed when the house was demolished. Just a few bricks and a stain were all that remained of the former structure. Investigators also documented a small pit cellar associated with another slave house. Cellars were sub-floor pits used for storage. These are common features of small, nineteenth-century houses and kitchens. Other artifacts included ceramic dish and glass bottle fragments, buttons, and animal bones. 

Artifacts recovere​d from around the foundation remains of a house.

Investigators could link the privies and trash pits, as well as most of the artifacts, to the site's poor, working-class residents, who lived at the site after the 1880s. Recovery of an embalming fluid bottle and a casket-shaped paper weight confirmed the historic documents that indicated an undertaker had operated a funeral home at the site during the early 1900s.

An early 1900s stone casket-shaped paper weight. 

A handmade brick with a “frog” from the remains of an early nineteenth-century house.

What's Cool?

​​The Archaeology of Development

The archaeology at the Center Street site provides a glimpse into the process of urban development that occurred in Bowling Green since the 1820s. ​​The remains of foundations, pit cellars, and artifacts associated with slave houses and outbuildings found in the yards of an urban neighborhood along Center Street revealed that in the 1820s and 1830s, the property had once been the site of a small farmstead. By the late 1840s, it had been divided into smaller urban farmsteads, as new residents - upwardly mobile farmers and tenants - renovated the slave houses. In the late 1850s, the property was divided again, this time into lots too small to farm. Existing houses were renovated or replaced by new houses for working-class property owners. Eventually, by the 1880s, the buildings were demolished and the lots were subdivided into smaller lots. Small shotgun houses and cottages were built on these lots to house poor African-American working-class renters.​

The remains of an early nineteenht-century house foundation in the backyard of a shotgun house.

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