Garage Archaeology

This weekend, Susie and I cleaned out our little one-bay garage so it can store her sports car during the winter months. It produced two fun things. One is that it provided a little study collection of locally available bricks for my excavation of my backyard next fall. It also was a good little architectural study of a very simple building. 

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The bricks in the garage were not particularly remarkable. The previous owner of the house was an avid gardener and landscaper who installed some lovely sunken paths around the house. She used spoliated bricks from around town to give the paths a rusticated look. She, also, had access to the local historical society’s storeroom so we’re pretty sure that she grabbed at least some bricks that originated from important buildings around town.

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The harder fired and more modern bricks are on the right side. The brick with the alternating 08080 pattern is clearly marked as made in Canada. They are almost certainly made over the last 40 years and are very hard fired.

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The softer brick with the clear stamp reading M.J. Moran is probably late 19th or first decade of the 20th century when Michael Moran was involved in a range of large construction projects in town. He eventually joined with the Dinnie Brothers and some other investors in the Red River Brick Corporation of Grand Forks. 

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The three bricks on the far left side of the photograph are very soft and range in color from buff to pink. They probably date to the 1890s or the very early 20th century, and  suspect they were made somewhere on the Red River. 

The garage dates, probably to the first half of the 20th century and is currently being compromised by a large elm tree. A superficial cleaning of the garage revealed two phases. The first phase consisted of a 16 ft x 12 ft garage with an 8 foot door on its west side. The garage sat on a slightly elevated concrete soccle. The concrete floor does not join the soccle. At some point the garage was extended 4 ft to west. The added 4 ft is visible in both the original soccles in the current garage and in the construction of the roof and walls.     

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We got thinking about why someone would extend their garage 4ft. We concluded that the addition predated the current siding on the garage which looks to date from the 1950s or 1960s. So the garage extension must date to before then. We wondered whether the extension could date to the 1950s when the average length of a car began to grow. It is worth noting that a 16 ft garage would have not been long enough for many full-sized cars in the early 1960s which often were over 190 inches (almost 16 ft) long. Fords, for example, throughout much of the 1930s and 1940s had a wheelbase of a mere 112 inches an overall length of not much more, by the late 1940s and 1950s, the overall length had grown to close to 200 inches.

Finally, I was taking a few photographs of the area that we hope to excavate with a little scale. This overwhelmed our new housemate who couldn’t resist taking the scale for a little romp around the backyard and a spirited game of keep away. 

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