Louisville ECHO program digs in on Portland Wharf Park

Louisville ECHO provides fourth grade students at area elementary schools with meaningful experiences to help these students develop a closer relationship with their environment.

BY CHRISTA WEIDNER
Jeffersonville Memorial Forest Naturalist
E-mail Christa

Fifth grade students and their teachers from Portland Elementary joined staff and volunteers from Jefferson Memorial Forest and archaeologists from Kentucky Archaeological Survey at Portland Wharf Park as part of the service project of the Louisville ECHO program.  They participated in an archaeological dig and a clean up. 

Louisville ECHO began in 2008.  Portland Elementary has been a part of this from the very beginning.  They engage in several learning experiences at the Jefferson Memorial

Forest, Portland Wharf Park, and the Red River Gorge.  The first two years their service project was to plant native shrubs and trees to improve the habitat in the Metro Park. 

This year we decided to do something a little differently.  We were lucky enough to have Jay Stottman and Steve Abell come out and do an archaeological dig with the students and teachers. 

The students and teachers uncovered remains of the Veit shotgun house and artifacts from the Veit family.  Henry Veit, an immigrant from Prussia, was a shoemaker who had established a shop on Water Street at the busy Portland Wharf in 1856. 

He and his family probably lived above the shop that he rented, like most craftsman during that time.  By 1873 Henry began to build his own house on a vacant lot just a half a block from his shop.  The lot had been vacated in 1856 when the house of French immigrants the Mangin family, burned. 

Veit built a house typical of Portland and Louisville during the late 1800s, a shotgun house.  Unfortunately, Portland’s fortunes would see decline by the late 1870s, as did the Veit family.  Henry died in 1878 at age 58, leaving his family in their relatively new home.  Katherine Veit lived in the home taking on various boarders until 1921 when she sold it.  By that time, the home had survived numerous floods and was one of the few remaining structures left in the Portland Wharf area.  The building was finally demolished in 1934. 

Archaeologists and Portland Elementary School students recovered many artifacts from the Veit family and their house, including brick, nails, window glass, bottle glass, ceramic dish fragments, animal bone, and a marble.  These artifacts will help us learn more about house and the lives of the Veit family. 

 The other part of the service was a clean up.  The park looked really good so we headed to the river bank where we found a lot of trash, as well as, deer tracks and fish skeletons.  The students rushed around to pick up the trash and enjoyed the views of the Ohio River.  Thank you Portland Elementary for helping us improve Metro Parks!

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