Sunday, March 26, 2006

Urban Archeology

One of my recent projects has been to finally clean up our backyard. When we bought our home, the yard in back of the house had a wheelchair ramp and two massive planter boxes surrounded by overgrown grass. Since then, we've mostly ignored the yard except for fixing the fence destroyed by Katrina and removing the two pine trees knocked over as well.

This past week I finally got around to removing the planter boxes and using the treated lumber along side the house. When the new house was built in the empty lot next door to us, they created a bunch of runoff problems which jeopardized our foundation piers. So I've been constructing boxes along the side of our home and filling them with earth to create what is essentially a miniature levee to redirect our neighbors runoff away from our home.

Once the boxes were removed, we decided to move the really great soil from them to the side of the yard and create a little garden in front of our new neighbors tall fence. However, when I started digging out the grass for where the garden was going to go, I hit bricks about 4 inches down in the dirt.

It turns out that at least 1/3 of our backyard contains a buried brick sidewalk that dates back to when the homes were first constructed (between 1890 and 1900). We're not sure why the bricks are where there are in our yard but our best guess is that the house that was originally in the empty lot (first one built on the block) was probably built at the back and the bricks in our yard were part of an alley or street used to make deliveries to the home.

So we've changed our plans and are now exposing all the bricks and we're going to use that area as a patio. There is a small strip of space between them and the fence and we're going to make that the garden. To section that area off, I've been making a brick wall out of the bricks leftover from the ones I dug up from the other side of the house when we're salvaging bricks for the front steps we had to build.


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