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1949 painting of Portland looking towards the southeast from Indiana.

Portland Wharf

Site ID: 15Jf418

Voyager Media Group
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​​​​​The ​​​55-acre Portland Wharf site encompasses the remains of the original town of Portland, a once thriving and bustling nineteenth-century river town near Louisville. The site contains the remains of six city blocks and the wharf.  

Since the early 1980s, several archaeological projects have taken place at the site.  In 1982 and 1983, the University of Louisville conducted a surface reconnaissance and test excavations. In 2002, Metro Parks and the Portland community asked the Kentucky Archaeological Survey to carry out an archaeological survey of the entire site.  Archaeological investigations in 2005 and 2006 by the Kentucky Archaeological Survey focused on Lot 56, located on 33rd Street between Florida Alley and Missouri Street.

​Lot 56 was first developed during Portland’s most prosperous time, at the beginning of the steamboat era in the early 1840s. Francis and Barbara Mangin lived at Lot 56, Barbara Mangin continued to live there after her husband's death until the house burned in 1856. 

According to court records, the house burned just one day after Mangin sold it to John Young, a wealthy Louisville land speculator and businessman. He had pressured the widow to sell the property for half of what it was worth.  Subsequently, Henry and Katherine Viet, immigrants from Prussia, built a shotgun house on the lot.

Archaeologists document the stratigraphy at Lot 56.


​Archaeological investigations documented soil layers at Lot 56 that tell the story of the lot's development.  They began approximately six feet below the present-day ground surface.

Archaeologists encountered layers of soil that contained artifacts associated with the Mangin house.  One of these was a distinctively burned layer that included charcoal and burned artifacts, testimony to the 1856 fire. Several feet of fill and debris covered the Mangin house deposits. Above this fill were layers associated with the construction, occupation, and demolition of the Veit’s shotgun house.

Mangin household artifacts included fragments of burned ceramic dishes, bottle glass, and smoking pipes. These were in the house when it burned in 1856. Mangin ceramics were typical of the 1840s and 1850s: undecorated dishes and examples of mocha and transfer-printed decorated dishes. Other artifacts consisted of nails and window glass fragments.

Veit Family artifacts were reflective of the 1870s to early 1900s. Ceramics were mainly undecorated white granite and whiteware, the most common types of the period, as well as porcelain. Some decorated ceramics included late transfer-printed examples and handpainted and decal-decorated types. Investigators recovered large quantities of bottle glass from the Veit Family deposits, especially from the privies: wine, liquor, medicine, pickle, and condiment bottles. 

Animal bones from one of the Veit privies revealed that the family preferred chicken over other meats. Other artifacts associated with the Veit’s shotgun house included mainly nails and fragments of window glass and brick.

Archaeologists recovered a variety of glass bottles used and discarded by the Veit Family.Artifacts from Lot 56 show that despite their rather modest incomes, the Mangin and Veit families readily participated in the nineteenth century's consumer economy.  Both families could afford to purchase at least some of the more popular and expensive dishes of the day.  The artifacts also show that a wide variety of goods were available to the residents, which demonstrates Portland’s importance as an Ohio River port. Just about anything was available to the residents of Portland.​​

Burned mocha and transfer-printed ceramic dish fragments from the Mangin occupation of Lot 56.

What's Cool?

​​Computer Animation

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati's​ Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS) created a digital reconstruction of the Viet Family's shotgun house and yard at Lot 56. They consulted a combination of archaeological discoveries and historic records in their work.

Digital reconstruction of the Viet Family's shotgun House (ca. 1873).

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