Monday, May 07, 2001

Cistern unearthed at museum

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Construction crews working at Behringer-Crawford Museum have unearthed an unusual find — an unusually large cistern possibly dating to the mid-19th century.

        The cistern found at the southeast corner of the museum was 20 feet deep and 12 feet wide. Beehive-shaped, it was built of brick and coated with creosote.

        “We knew there was a well or a cistern in that general area because of old plans we had for the building,” said Bethany Berlejung, the museum's education director. “We just didn't know how big it was.”

        Among the artifacts recovered Friday were some decorative ironwork and a piece of slate dated May 2, 1917.

        The cistern was unearthed Thursday as crews from Century Construction excavated the area in preparation for a 15,000-square-foot addition that will serve as the museum's new entrance and provide more exhibit space.

        The $2.6 million expansion and renovation of the museum dedicated to Northern Kentucky's natural, cultural and artistic heritage is to be finished by 2004.

        “They're moving ahead with the excavation,” said Jack Gore, project architect. “It won't delay us.”

        Mr. Gore said the cistern will be refilled with soil and a structural slab cap will be poured to a depth of 7 or 8 feet before crews build on top of it. The total cost should be about $1,000.

        Over the weekend, Jeannine Kreinbrink, associate archaeologist for the museum, planned to sift through some of the fill from the bottom of the cistern and begin researching why the families who lived in the 19th-century home needed such a large cistern.

        Built in 1848 by James Eubank, the home was purchased by the Devou family in the 1860s. The Devous had a millinery business in Cincinnati. “Now it's kind of like, "Wow, what were the Devous doing up there?'” Ms. Kreinbrink said.

        One possibility is wine production, Ms. Kreinbrink said. She said people in the area produced wine in the mid-19th century “and you needed a lot of water for that.

        “This discovery raises a lot of interesting questions.”


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