Students Dig Deep at Whitehall House
July 02, 2010
by Chris Barrett
Providence Business Journal
A team of students were expected to finish excavation work Friday at Middletown's Whitehall House, a building that dates back more than two centuries.
Fourteen undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Massachusetts Boston, Stonehill College, Sweet Briar College and Salve Regina University conducted surveys of the property that combined history, geo-physics and archaeology. Salve Regina University said that before the team arrived little was known about the building now run as a museum by The Whitehall Committee of The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.
"This is the museum that time forgot, in every way," said James Garman, associate professor and chairman of Salve Regina's cultural and historic preservation program, who serves as co-director of this summer field school in historical archaeology. "Here's a house that's only had three years of its 280-year history interpreted."
Garman said researchers found artifacts dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. Among items found include pottery from England, Germany, China and America; broken bottles and pipe fragments from the use of Whitehall as a tavern; and an assortment of buckles, buttons, and personal artifacts. Researchers also located foundations from old outbuildings dating back more than 100 years.
Whitehall House itself dates back to at least 1729. Salve Regina said George Berkeley purchased land and a house from Joseph Whipple that year. Berkeley, an Anglican bishop and philosopher, came to Newport to raise money for a planned college in Bermuda. He left Newport in 1731 without the money he hoped.
The house later served as a gentleman's tea house and coffee house, a refuge for Tory merchant Silas Cooke Jr., and then as a tenant farm occupied by the Brown family for most of the 19th century. The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America acquired the house at the end of the 19th century and turned it into a museum.
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