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Archaeological Survey of the South Commons, Columbus, Georgia

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The City of Columbus, South Commons project area consists of a 110 ac (45 ha) tract bounded on the north and east by Victory Drive and on the south and west by the Chattahoochee River. The South Commons was originally set aside in the city plan as a public use area. While some industrial development has encroached upon the South Commons much of the area today remains essentially recreational. A master plan for developing the South Commons, in part relating to the 1996 Olympics, will impact large portions of the project area. An archeological survey was performed to assess cultural resources prior to this development. An intensive archeological survey of the South Commons was conducted November, 1993. Four cultural resources were identified and designated as archeological sites. Two of these sites, 9Me47 and 9Me378, encompass the locations of important historic complexes. Site 9Me47 includes part of the first hospital compound of Columbus and a large city dumping area. The site also contains cultural remains associated with other nineteenth and twentieth century events and activities. 9Me378 represents the site of the Western Course horse racing track. The track operated at that location from the 1830s to the early twentieth century. Sites 9Me375 and 9Me376 are related primarily to aboriginal occupations. Three of the sites. required further testing to determine National Register eligibility status, and this was done in December 1993 and January 1994. Site 9Me47 has been heavily-impacted by a variety of disturbances, including recent construction. Testing undertaken to take advantage of the large profile cuts exposed during construction, allowed a rapid means of determining stratigraphy and dating large portions of the site. The preserved area of the site was examined by backhoe trenching, shovel testing and test pit excavation. Testing revealed that most material associated with the dump dated to the mid-twentieth century. One small area of a ca 1920 dumping episode was identified and sampled through a 1 x 2 m test pit. An attempt at near total recovery of garbage from that unit produced nearly 100,000 artifacts, most of which were small fragments of sheet metal and bottle glass. The site produced no conclusive evidence of earlier (nineteenth century) dumping. The hospital site was found to be essentially destroyed. A single feature interpreted as part of a nineteenth century foundation was tentatively related to the hospital era. However, examination of nineteenth and early twentieth century maps suggests that the actual hospital buildings had been destroyed by mid-twentieth construction. Because of extensive disturbance the site is recommended ineligible to the National Register. Testing of the aboriginal site 9Me376 included systematic shovel testing, test pit excavation and backhoe trenching. Testing indicated the site contained a sparse scatter of prehistoric and historic Creek artifacts within a topsoil deposit approximately 20 cm thick. Features dating to these occupations were not identified. The site also contained substantial amounts of historic artifacts, some of which dated to the nineteenth century, but most of which was modem. The site produced a few postmolds which may be associated with fence lines or possibly grandstands associated with the adjacent race tract site. Much of the twentieth century material is related to the golf course and a mid-twentieth century structure which formerly occupied a portion of the site. Because of the lack of preserved features and. archeological deposits, site 9Me376 is recommended ineligible for nomination to the National Register. Site 9Me378, the old race tracks, was examined primarily through backhoe trenching. The site was also recorded by mapping existing surface features which included linear race track depressions and hedge rows that appeared to line some track courses. Because 9Me378 and 9Me376 overlap, a portion of the race track site was also examined by shovel testing and test pit excavation. Testing of the site produced evidence of two race track configurations. One of these tracks probably dates to the late 1880s. The second, more conspicuous track, probably dates to the mid-1920s. Backhoe trenching provided. an opportunity to record· profile cuts of the old race tracks. The trenching also provided a means of recording other features associated with the race track. The features were restricted to square and round postmolds. Surface mapping and backhoe trenching of 9Me378 produced important information for comparing actual race track locations with depictions on nineteenth and early twentieth century maps. This is considered the most significant contribution of testing. With respect to preservation, the race track site was found to retain only a few segments of the old courses. Most of the site has been destroyed by twentieth century construction, highway widening and landscaping associated with the golf course. While some postmolds remain in certain areas of the site, there appears to be little probability that complete patterns of the old grandstands are preserved. However, further fieldwork would not likely provide additional information. Because of the lack of integrity and research potential, 9ME378 is recommended ineligible for nomination to the National Register. Site 9Me375 is a sparse, heavily disturbed scatter of aboriginal and historic artifacts near Memorial Stadium. Because of the sparseness of material, lack of intact deposits and extensive disturbance, the site is recommended not eligible for nomination to the National Register. Archeological survey and testing of the South Commons project area failed to identify sites with well preserved cultural deposits or features that would be considered significantly important for further field investigation or preservation. Further work is not recommended for the project area.