Archaeologists solve mystery at Magnolia Mound

Archaeologists say they believe they have solved the mystery of the unknown brick structure discovered by a construction crew at BREC’s Magnolia Mound Plantation.

They say it was likely a storage building that burned down.

Early this month, a construction crew building the new Turner Visitor Center at Magnolia Mound found a brick foundation underground while digging to add drainage to the project.

The building does not appear on any historical map of Magnolia Mound.

On Thursday, BREC officials announced that archaeologists with Surveys Unlimited Research Associates Inc. had excavated portions of the structure and determined it most likely was a building used for storage that burned down.

The building was approximately 11 feet by 13 feet and made of wood, with a slate roof and glass windows. The foundation was a mixture of “plantation-style site-made bricks” from the 1800s and other more modern, machine-built bricks, according to a BREC news release.

Archaeologists believe the structure was built around 1900 because of the age of the bricks and because the building is not on an 1880s map of the property.

The excavation uncovered large amounts of ceramic pieces dating back to the Civil War, as well as artifacts from the 20th century.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of working at a site like Magnolia Mound is that anytime we make improvements to the property, we learn more about our past,” said John Sykes, Magnolia Mound director.

The structure is covered for now with a tarp during construction, and Sykes will decide whether to fill the site back up with dirt or leave some of it exposed as an exhibit once the construction is complete.

“While the building doesn’t appear to have great historical significance, its discovery gives us another glimpse into life in Baton Rouge more than 100 years ago,” Sykes said.

Friends of Magnolia Mound, a donor group associated with the BREC facility, paid for the additional costs of the excavation and investigation of the brick structure to determine its historical significance.

Magnolia Mound, a nationally accredited museum, dates back to the 1790s and includes early outbuildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.