Ground Penetrating Radar to Aid Research at Kingscote, Hunter House

Exciting historical research using modern techniques is happening at Kingscote (1841) and Hunter House (circa 1748), the two oldest of The Preservation Society of Newport County’s 11 historic house museums.

From Monday, May 15, through Thursday, May 18, a team from Dartmouth College will conduct research utilizing cutting-edge technology, including ground penetrating radar, at Kingscote and Hunter House. The team of four students will be led by Dr. Jesse Casana, a Professor of Anthropology at Dartmouth College and Co-Director of the Dartmouth Spatial Archaeometry Lab and Research Collaborations.

“Diligently maintaining our historic properties for future generations is just one aspect of the work we do,” Preservation Society CEO and Executive Director Trudy Coxe said. “It is also important to continue learning how the people who occupied these houses lived. This kind of in-depth research will provide another layer of insight, helping us better understand a significant era in Newport’s history.”

Dr. Casana’s work will shed light on the way these properties have been used over the centuries. This project will be instrumental in discovering the locations of previous structural foundations and outbuildings while also identifying specific sites for future archaeological digs. Kingscote will be surveyed Monday and Tuesday while the team will be at Hunter House through Thursday.

When the surveys are completed, the Dartmouth group will examine the data and develop a map of both properties. Ideally, they will provide an understanding of ground disturbances that register in the radar scans and can be used to create an aerial, spatial map that indicates non-extant building footprints, former garbage pits, historic graves (such as the Kingscote animal cemetery) and modern utility lines as well as anomalies. Based on these findings, the Preservation Society will decide whether further investigation via archaeological digs is warranted.

The ground survey project follows a recent analysis of the layers of paint on the exterior of Kingscote, which led to it being painted a different color, representative of its period of significance.

The Preservation Society’s curatorial and conservation team sought to identify the color used in the 1880s when Kingscote was significantly renovated and expanded by architects McKim, Mead and White. Approximately 125 samples were collected and examined using a high-power microscope. The analysis identified up to 28 individual paint layers dating as far back as the house’s construction in 1841. The curatorial staff determined the house was repainted in a scheme of grayish brown and red as part of the 1880s work. In the 20th century this eventually gave way to the house’s familiar light gray color. This spring, Kingscote was repainted in its 1880s color.




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