July/August 2009 issue
Eagleton Courthouse Artifacts Display
by Joan Voelker, Archives Librarian
In 1994 contractors conducting excavations for
the foundation of the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S.
Courthouse uncovered backyard cisterns, wells,
and latrines dating to the
19th century which had
been filled in with old
pottery and glass bits, dirt,
and other household
debris. An archaeological
survey was performed, and
the artifacts recovered provide a glimpse into a
historical microcosm of one block in the city of
St. Louis during the mid to late 1800s.
Dinnerware used during the period, as well as a
large number of food, medicine, and beverage
bottles were unearthed at the site. A .32 caliber
vest derringer from the 1840s, a brooch
decorated with a painting of a young lady, an
inkwell, a clay pipe stem, an oil lamp with
chimney, and a porcelain doll's leg were also
among the items recovered.
The block was populated by a mixture of rich and
poor, with the rich living in large single-family
homes on the street and the poor living in
tenement buildings along the alleys. Among the
more notable residents were a steamboat agent,
who was also a U.S. Marshal and slave owner,
and Captain Peter Blow, a relative of Taylor
Blow, the man who signed the emancipation
papers for Dred Scott.
For more on the history of Block 205, as it was
known in the mid-19th century, stop by the first
floor jury assembly room to see a selection of the
artifacts and read its story.