Levi Jordan Plantation House Restoration Project, Brazoria County, Texas

 

Prewitt and Associates, Inc., Staff:

Douglas K. Boyd, Principal Investigator

Jennifer K. McWilliams, Principal Investigator

Aaron Norment, Project Archeologist

Client: Texas Historical Commission, Historic Sites Division

 

In 2010, the Texas Historical Commission began a project to stabilize and restore the big house at the Levi Jordan Plantation State Historical Park in Brazoria County, Texas. The 20x60-ft wooden frame, two-story, Greek Revival house was reportedly built in the 1850s by Levi Jordan. When the State of Texas took over the property in 2002, the old house had fallen into disrepair from years of neglect. The THC took over management of the property in 2008, and in 2010 they hired the Austin architectural firm of Volz and Associates, Inc., to do the architectural restoration. Prewitt and Associates, Inc. was contracted to provide archeological services in conjunction with the restoration work. In two separate phases of work in 2010 and 2011, Prewitt and Associates archeologists conducted extensive excavations of features around and underneath the big house.

During this project, PAI archeologists investigated numerous features, including: foundation piers associated with later additions to the plantation house; a chimney footing associated with an east wing behind the house; a chimney foundation associated with a former detached kitchen behind the main house; and two large brick rubble concentrations, a small brick cluster; and a possible rain barrel brick pad around the main house. Features associated with the original 1850s plantation house were also investigated, including a brick patio and walkway, 2 brick-walled cisterns, 2 brick chimney footings, and 15 brick pier pads. All of these mid-nineteenth-century features were constructed of hand-molded bricks that were most likely made onsite by enslaved plantation workers.

The archeological investigations revealed many details about the architecture of the original plantation house and the history of subsequent repairs and additions. The evidence provides a better understanding of the building construction sequence and insights into the complex evolution of the Levi Jordan plantation house over its ca. 160-year existence. The most significant find is an 1853 one-dollar gold coin found in the brick pad at the bottom of the southeast corner pier. The coin is a "Liberty Head" dollar minted in Philadelphia (it has no mint mark). This is almost certainly a "date coin" that was placed in this location by Levi Jordan or a master builder during a cornerstone foundation rite. Given the prominent role of Freemasons in the early history of Texas, it is likely that the coin represents a Freemason foundation-laying ritual that was similar to modern cornerstone placement ceremonies conducted by Freemasons. Notably, this coin resolves a long-standing mystery at the Levi Jordan Plantation because it provides an accurate date of 1853 for the beginning of the house construction.

 

                                                                                                                      

 

For more information on the Levi Jordan Plantation State Historical Site, go to:

 

http://www.thc.texas.gov/historic-sites/levi-jordan-plantation-state-historic-site

 

 

The final report on the Levi Jordan big house archeological investigations is:

 

ARCHEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS FOR THE LEVI JORDAN PLANTATION HOUSE STABILIZATION, BRAZORIA COUNTY, TEXAS

May 2013, by Jennifer K. McWilliams, Douglas K. Boyd, and Aaron Norment

Prewitt and Associates, Inc., Reports of Investigations No. 166

 

Report