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Missouri Department of Transportation

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The Elizabeth Pfeifer Site (23SL2328) and the West Papin Site (23SL2329)

Two historic archaeological sites were identified and evaluated by MoDOT archaeologists as part of the preliminary work associated with the proposed plan to replace the Tower Grove Bridge over I-64. The sites, the Elizabeth Pfeifer (23SL2328) and the West Papin (23SL2329), represent a late 19th/early 20th Century working class neighborhood. After it was determined that these sites could not be avoided, MoDOT contracted with the Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis to conduct data recovery excavations at these two sites.

The Elizabeth Pfeifer and the West Papin sites contained the remains of residences and businesses that were constructed in the 1880s and occupied until about 1960, when I-64 (Highway 40) was constructed through this area. At this location, the roadway was cut through the hills to produce a more level grade; as a result, the houses were destroyed. The backyards of these properties, at the edges of the existing MoDOT right-of-way, still contained the remains of various yard features. These features represent a time capsule with discrete artifacts reflecting changes in people’s personal taste, consumption pattern, values, and the overall culture over time.

Text Box:    A single brick privy/water closet               Text Box:    A double brick privy/water closet

A total of 40 features were uncovered at these sites, which contained artifacts from 1884 to the 1950s. It was during this time that Victorian ideas were being replaced by those of the Industrial/Consumer Age. Miasma theory of health was replaced by germ theory, which is reflected in the construction of the privies at these sites. Working class families, similar to those living in this area, struggled to survive as their labor often was exploited by company owners. Changes in government regulation and advances of unions improved the lot of these families during the 1920s only to be again devastated by the economic downturn of the Depression and deprivations in order to support the war effort during World War II. Industrialization, however, made a number of products available to consumers at cheaper prices. This along with advertisements increased people’s desire to acquire the growing number of consumer goods, which were touted as being able to improve one’s health, hygiene, personal appearance, and décor. Many of these products actually did not improve these conditions and some, especially concerning health care, were more harmful than the disease they were supposed to cure. It also was during this time, after the Spanish-American War, that Americans developed a growing sense of national pride and started competing with other countries on a global basis. Learning about this period of history is crucial for allowing us to gain insights into our own behavior today. The data recovery investigations at the Elizabeth Pfeifer and the West Papin sites give us a small window back to this time period.

Text Box:  	   	Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp-Root “Sample Bottle”	A Broach

Additional information concerning the history of this neighborhood and the archaeological excavations can be found in the final site report. The report, Data Recovery Investigations of the Elizabeth Pfeifer (23SL2328) and the West Papin Site (23SL2329): Insights into an Early 20th Century Working Class Neighborhood, City of St. Louis, Missouri, is available on-line through the Missouri State Library.

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