Story by Lon Tytell
The Warwick Historical Society hosted a slide presentation on Sun., Mar. 26 at the A.W. Buckbee Center which highlighted the work done by the “Shingle Diggers,” volunteers from the Society who have spent three years unearthing artifacts near the Shingle House, located on Forester Ave. and Baird’s Tavern, located at 105 Main St. in Warwick. George Knight, the head of the Society’s archaeological team, narrated the presentation, which explained the process that he and fellow volunteers followed.
“We have the unique opportunity of bringing to life things that have been out of sight for 200 years,” said Knight. He spoke of the recent ground penetrating radar survey that was performed near Baird’s Tavern and the Shingle House, which was helpful in locating the discoveries.
Knight shared a story about the day that volunteers, working in a hole near Baird’s Tavern, had placed yellow tape around the work area. One of the volunteers, Vicki Braidotti, removed an outer shirt to cool off as she worked. People in the adjoining Key Bank parking lot kept stopping and staring at the volunteers. It wasn’t until Vicki turned around that the volunteers noticed the back of her shirt, which contained the words “N.Y.C. Crime Scene Unit.”
Knight spent the majority of the presentation recapping each year of the discoveries made near the Shingle House. One important find was the proof that a stone block house was built next to the Shingle House. Daniel Burt’s wife had urged her husband to add this extra building as a protection from the local Native Americans, unaware that they were for the most part friendly. The volunteers found a stone from the additional building with the date 1764, which was also the year the Shingle House was built.
Attendees also learned that the original Shingle House at one time underwent renovations and the stone block house was torn down. It was later replaced by an adjoining annex. In addition to the discovery of a cistern near the Shingle House, the diggers also found interesting artifacts, some of which included pipe stems, coins, bones and teeth of small animals, beverage and medicine bottles and shards of dishes. These finds have been labeled and are on display at the A.W. Buckbee Center.
Members of the dig team who assisted Knight were Dot Zwerin, Vicki Braidotti, Michael Mohyla, Jim Cline, Ivy Tulin and her grandson Austin. The volunteers found the experience challenging and rewarding and have learned so much about local history. Along with the digging and the discovery of historical items, the volunteers spent time cleaning, categorizing and recording all the findings.
Knight expressed his appreciation for the contributions of Candy Ahrenholz, Susan Winstanley, Druscilla O’ Malley , Grace Lippman and Dot Zwerin in the dig process. The artifacts found on the grounds near the Baird’s Tavern are now on display at the A.W. Buckbee.
“The discoveries made by the volunteers opened our eyes to the everyday lives of the people of Warwick,” said Cathyrn Anders, the president of the Warwick Historical Society.