A significant part of SMCM becoming a four year liberal arts college can be attributed to the tenure of President May Russell, who began leadership in 1949. St. Mary’s Female Seminary officially became St. Mary’s Seminary in 1949, and an ambitious development campaign to increase enrollment began. In the 1950′s the State of Maryland authorized funding for expanding facilities to include a Faculty Residence (Margaret Brent Hall) and a new classroom building (Anne Arundel Hall). Four acres of land were purchased from Mr. J. Spence Howard and his wife Mrs. Jeannette Brome Howard. This expansion became the foundation for transition into a four year program that St. Mary’s College of Maryland is today.
The Anne Arundel Hall Replacement Project has been in the planning stages for a number of years. Once a team was hired to complete the architectural and engineering design, the project was able to move forward in assessing how the landscape (and therefore the archaeology) would be affected. The design team examined ways to re-use both of the 1950s buildings. Although Anne Arundel Hall will not be able to have adaptive re-use, all salvagable materials will be recycled. More information about this is available on the college website. Currently there are plans to move Margaret Brent Hall to a new location across Rt. 5. It will serve as the Philosophy and Religous Studies Department. During the last several decades Margaret Brent was the location of the business office and financial aid. These offices have gradually moved to the north side of campus.
The new location for Margaret Brent Hall is planned in what now serves as a portion of the Charles Hall/Campus Center parking lot. In order to complete this move, the archaeological work needed to be completed in advance.
The first step in conducting the archaeological work below the surface of an existing parking lot is to hire heavy machinery. A local contractor was brought on to strip the asphalt and underlying fill related to the parking lot. We were not sure what types of soil deposits would be found below the surface, and we were uncertain how deep the digging would need to go. It all depends on how the original lot was constructed in the 1960s.
The day the parking lot stripping began was one of those 105 degree August heat waves, and one needs to add another 10-15 degrees to that since the surface of the surrounding pavement intensifies everything. The day after the stripping was the first day of rain in months. This proved to be a huge challenge for us, as the stripped portion of the lot happens to be the lowest portion of the entire paved surface! Instead of having a large pit with hard dry soils, we found ourselves with a huge flooded swimming pool. The soils became mud, and every day was spent scraping the mud up, just in time for another round of rain. This was an extremely frustrating effort, particularly since we were trying to complete the work prior to students returning at the end of August. Fortunately, we filled the lot in on the first day of classes, and of course it didn’t rain again for another month or so!
Everyone wants to know what we found during this effort, mostly because we made such a large mess, not to mention the parking problem we created. But several people were genuinely curious about the work we conducted here. This is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand we want to be able to say that way had fascinating finds that made the efforts worthwhile. While on the other hand, we really did not want to find anything of great significance for several reasons, including the time delay this would potentially cause. It was important and necessary for us to go in and clear the site archaeologically. We recorded our findings and excavated features. The significance of this effort is yet to be determined: often we take the recorded data to process at the lab facility before we can make any significant conclusions. This is certainly the case for the parking lot effort. We need time to tie together the work we recently completed with other investigations on the site in order to fully understand the findings. One interesting discovery here was was a large geological feature, likely evidence of the Potomac River’s ancient bed. It was the first time many of us were able to work on white sand beaches!