Digging Up The Past
Findings Unearthed During Monon Boulevard Construction Now Being Restored at Carmel Clay Historical Society
Writer: Benjamin Lashar
Photography Provided by Benjamin Lashar & Josh Brown
Monon Boulevard construction is an exciting project. Many Carmel residents are looking forward to the future road. However, the project is not only helping Carmel’s future but also its past.
During their work, White Construction has discovered that with any city as old as Carmel, you are sure to find a treasure trove of artifacts with enough digging. Throughout construction, workers found artifacts ranging from pioneer times to the 1920s. Most of these artifacts have been delivered to Carmel Clay Historical Society for study and preservation.
Many relics are from the railroad that used to run through Carmel. Construction workers have dug up train spikes, pieces of railroad and even parts of trains. Perhaps the most interesting remnant of the railroad is two pieces of glass from a railroad sign. The glass is so reflective that, without any electricity, they reflected light from old trains, allowing conductors to see the sign.
These remnants of the old railroad help show how crucial the railroad was to Carmel’s development. As Emily Ehrgott, executive director of the Carmel Clay Historical Society, says, “the train brought a lot of possibilities here.”
Construction also unearthed lots of jugs and containers. Most containers are pottery, but there are also many unbroken glass bottles. One is even labeled “alcohol.” Who’s to say if that particular bottle was for medicine or something else? Both the clay and glass bottles reveal the everyday life of Carmel’s previous generations.
Some of the historical society’s favorite artifacts from the construction are two metal signs. One is an advertisement for American Express and the other promotes Atlas Cement. While the signs are obviously old and faded, they are still easily readable and well preserved. Both signs are good indicators of how industrialized and prosperous early Carmel was.
The historical society has expressed thankfulness for White Construction’s eagerness to donate the artifacts they have been finding. Ehrgott says “they’ve been really good about bringing this stuff to me.”
Due to the construction site’s proximity to the historical society, the donations have been convenient for both parties. Construction workers often leave what they find outside the historical society’s door. This led to a strange collection of items on the society’s lawn. Recently, there were railroad bars, broken pottery and even a frying pan outside Carmel Clay Historical Society’s headquarters.
Currently, Carmel Clay Historical Society plans to showcase the White Construction artifacts in an exhibit next April. By then, all the artifacts should be dated, restored and ready to show off. The society plans to pair the artifacts with pictures from Carmel Clay’s archives to show what the items looked like brand new.
The event is sure to be the perfect event for anyone interested in Carmel and its roots. Until then, keep an eye out for interesting pieces of history around you. As Ehrgott says, “you never know what’s down below the dirt.”
The Carmel Clay Historical Society is located at 211 1st St. S.W. You can visit them online at carmelclayhistory.org or give them a call at 317-846-7117.