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Archaeologists unearth remnants of Latta House

Posted February 24, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Some people feared a piece of Raleigh history dating from the late 1800s was lost forever. With the help of archaeologists, however, artifacts from the Latta House in Raleigh are surfacing.

Latta House site holds wealth of archaeological finds Latta House site holds wealth of archaeological finds

The Rev. Morgan Latta started Latta University off Oberlin Road to educate under-privileged and orphaned black children. He had been born into slavery in 1856 on the Cameron Family Plantation. Latta wrote a book describing his boyhood days on the plantation and his work to establish Latta University.

The school was "to teach the lowest of the low (and) to provide this education,” said Bill Shepherd, a former Latta House resident.

In recent years, all that survived was the Latta House on two acres at 1001 Parker St., where Latta once lived. The site was named a Raleigh Historic Landmark for its architecture in 2003.

In 2007, the house burned to the ground. With it gone, the property lost its status as a city landmark. The Latta site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2002, however.

"Having this man's story (Latta's book) in my hand, this did not burn down, and two acres of land is still here,” Shepherd said.

The city hired archaeologist Scott Seibel, with Environmental Services Inc., to dig into the site's ruins.

He and his team found several items from Latta University's past, such as a knife handle, a horseshoe, a shoe polish bottle, plate fragments and indications of posts marking other buildings behind the house.

The items are remnants of lessons taught more than 100 years ago, such as blacksmithing, carpentry and brick laying, Seibel said.

Seibel said that, so far, he has only searched 40 square feet of the two-acre site. Based on the physical finds, Seibel hopes the property will regain its spot among Raleigh's historic landmarks.

Many people also believe there is a lot more hidden below that the university can teach.

"I am sure there is a lot more of that (remnants) out there on the property,” Seibel said.

Supporters say they will soon apply to have the city re-list the property as a historic city landmark. City leaders have also set aside $50,000 to draw up plans for a park on the land.


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  • haggis basher Feb 25, 2009

    There is nothing left to preserve! The stuff they found couls as easily be trash.
    I sure there must be other remaining buildings that could better use the money. Sell the site, build Condos, call them "Latta School Court" and stick a commemerative plaque on the wall.

  • smalldogsrule Feb 25, 2009

    I think THIS is a worthy expenditure. So was the Queen Anne's Revenge project. History is very important to the future. We can NOT afford to forget who we are or where we came from. I would like to see a replica of the Latta House rebuilt in it's place. I'm sure that enough artifacts could be found around the country to make a fitting museum.

  • merrywidow Feb 25, 2009

    I was so upset when the house burned down. I'm glad they're doing archaelogical work there.

  • angora2 Feb 25, 2009

    ThatGuyAgain, the Latta House was very unusual for its time. Don't you think a black university from more than 100 years ago should rate $50K to preserve its history? Or would you rather some developer divide the property into 1/4-acre lots and build monstrous houses or condos?

  • ThatGuyAgain Feb 25, 2009

    What's all this about how NC has a budget crisis? If we're spending money digging up shoe polish tins and calling them "historic" then all this talk about belt-tightening is just more political talk.

  • mramorak Feb 25, 2009