Brown House artifacts on display at American Camp

Pictured above are several of the artifacts unearthed as part of the 2010 Brown House move and on display at American Camp.   - Contributed photo / NPS
Pictured above are several of the artifacts unearthed as part of the 2010 Brown House move and on display at American Camp.
— image credit: Contributed photo / NPS

Artifacts of daily life during the joint military occupation and the farming period that followed are on display at the newly refreshed archaeology exhibits at San Juan Island National Historical Park’s American Camp visitor center.

The exhibits present the results of archaeological surveys and excavations performed in conjunction with the December 2010 move of the former Adam C. Brown house from Friday Harbor to its original location on Officers’ Row on the American Camp parade ground.

The archaeology work was done through collaboration between the park and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site’s Northwest Cultural Resources Institute.

Archaeologist Beth Horton and her crew unearthed 14,886 total objects. Exhibit preparator Meagan Huff selected 17 representative objects for the Brown house case, plus designed and reorganized all of the cases and included descriptive information and photographs.

The research activities have revealed the history of the site, particularly the design and construction methods of the military encampment, and the adaptive reuse of military structures and the American Camp landscape by early homesteading families.

One entire case is devoted to families that occupied the house during the military period from 1860 to 1872 and immediately afterward. It is unknown when the building was moved to Friday Harbor, as it does not appear on town plats until 1884.

Many artifacts are from a period when settlers were primarily farmers who raised cereal crops, fruit and livestock. An early homesteading family was that of Robert Firth, the last agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Belle Vue Sheep Farm. Among the displayed objects are earthen-ware shards, a hand-painted teacup, drawer pull, ink bottle, and a tobacco pipe bowl.

The exhibits and a large case of pre-contact American Indian and First Nations artifacts from the park’s Burke Museum collection represent more than 6,000 years of habitation, according to park historian Mike Vouri.

Visitor Center admission is free. Call 360-378-2240, ext. 2233 for accessibility and other information. The center is located at 4668 Cattle Point Road.


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