History project becomes a site of 'little mysteries' (x Archaeology: At Hancock's Resolution in Pasadena, workers are looking for clues to restore the 18th-century house and estate.

November 07, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

It's quiet, rustic days are over.

An 18th-century stone house on the Bodkin Peninsula in Pasadena known as Hancock's Resolution, boarded up for 30 years, has been teeming with activity in recent months -- part of an effort to restore the house and open it as a museum park.

A half-dozen cars are parked where there had never been a driveway, and for the first time, the house lights up at the flick of a switch. An old well is back in use.

Most importantly, archaeologists, borrowed from the historic London Town settlement site on the South River, are shoveling, poking and dusting the house's 14-acre waterfront property one foot at a time.

Restoring an 18th-century house and estate is like piecing together a giant puzzle. No one knows what exactly is on the property, though some clues such as piles of old glass buried in the woods and carved pipe stems have led to much speculation.

"We're right in the middle of various little mysteries," said project coordinator Jim Morrison. "That's part of the fun of these things."

The most recent discovery is what archaeologists suspect is the house's original kitchen, dating to a time when kitchens were often built separately because they burned down so often.

The remnants of the 10-foot-square building are covered largely in sand from the shore, a different experience for archaeologists used to the rock surfaces at London Town.

"We'd be looking awfully hard for this post," said archaeologist Jim Gibb, deep in the trenches that mark the old kitchen. "Here it's so obvious you almost don't believe it."

The house's 1790 tax records show there were once three buildings: the stone house, the apparent kitchen and one other building of unknown function that has not been traced.

It is believed that an earlier house was built in the mid-1700s by a member of the Hancock family, who is buried out back in a grave marked by a crude, engraved rock.

Hailed by local historians as tangible evidence of the real life of 18th-century settlers, the property was used as a signal point during the War of 1812 and possibly as the site of a store for sailors.

In 1962, on the death of Harry Hancock, the last Hancock, the house was willed to the Annapolis Historic Foundation, which kept tabs on the property but never did anything with it.

In 1989, the foundation leased the property to the county for 25 years, but energy for the project faded when funds dried up. In April, residents joined to raise money and stir up interest.

Most involved say it will be years before the project is complete. That's not a big concern for county archaeologist Al Luckenbach, who is overseeing the digs.

"We have years to play around out here," Luckenbach said. "I figure if it's been here for 200 years, it isn't going anywhere anytime soon."

Pub Date: 11/07/97

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