Archeology Collection Summary: the Cove House Site at Gateway National Recreation Area

The Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area contains a barrier peninsula called Sandy Hook, which extends about 6 miles off the north end of the Jersey Shore and encloses a portion of the Lower New York Bay.  Historically, Sandy Hook served as an anchorage point for ships headed to New York Harbor.  The Cove House was built on Sandy Hook ca. 1780 and functioned as a tavern until it was destroyed by fire in 1855.

The collection of artifacts excavated from the Cove House site consists largely of late 18th- to mid 19th-century ceramics, glass, and metal.  The ceramic assemblage includes redware, creamware , pearlware, whiteware , porcelain, and stoneware.

The redware consists predominantly of utilitarian kitchenware, and the creamware and pearlware occur most often in the form of teawares.  These earlier wares exist only in very small sherds, but there are several whiteware vessels that are reconstructable and as such represent complete or nearly complete vessels.  These include a gothic-paneled teapot, a shell-edged platter, and a sponge-decorated muffin plate.  NMSC staff was able to definitively ascertain vessel form by mending many small sherds together.  We use only very low-adhesive tape for temporary mending to ensure that no residue is left on the artifacts.  In order to conserve storage space, the vessels were deconstructed after cataloging.  Proper cataloging ensures that all mending fragments of a given vessel are stored together as one catalog log, so that they could be easily reconstructed if so desired by park staff.

Most of the stoneware from the Cove House is in the form of late 18th– and early 19th-century German salt-glazed mineral water bottles.  Many of these bottles are reconstructable and almost complete.  Mineral water was a popular 18th– and 19th-century antidote to indigestion, among many other health complaints.  These bottles bear inscriptions and stamps that denote the spring and town from which the water was collected, and offer great research potential for a student of medicine, health, and historic ceramic production and distribution.  Intrigued?  Click on the photos for more information, and take a look at our previous post that explores these bottles in detail:  Seltzer Anyone?  Stoneware Mineral Water Bottles from the Cove House Site.

The Cove House collection contains a significant amount of nails, both hand-wrought and machine-cut.  There are several metal buttons in the collection, as well as several coins.  A few more artifacts of particular interest are a British halfpenny with two “tails” sides (we love this tricky fellow!), a writing slate with numbers inscribed on the surface, and a tiny, .22 caliber bullet that may have been intended for a pocket pistol.



About JessicaC

Jessica is a Museum Specialist in the Archeology Program at the Northeast Museum Services Center/National Park Service. She majored in history as an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and has a master's degree in historical archeology from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. She is particularly interested in 18th and 19th century American history and material culture.
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One Response to Archeology Collection Summary: the Cove House Site at Gateway National Recreation Area

  1. Pingback: What’s in Your NPS Archeology Collections? Take a Look at Gateway! | NMSC Archeology & Museum Blog

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