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The Presidio: Get Down and Dirty With the Archaeologists

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OK, we know everyone pictured here in the mud was hoping for some gold coins, or bones, preferably a skull, but they did find an early-19th Century terra-cotta roof tile and some pavers. They're volunteers at the Presidio's El Polin Creek community archaeology dig, working over this past weekend to unearth the history of the Tennessee Valley watershed under the supervision of the Presidio Trust's archaeologists. The dig is coordinated with other projects- controlling the seasonal flow of water through the valley and daylighting historic El Polin Creek from its source, creating a visitor-friendly site with a path and boardwalk looping through- and connecting the Native American past, Spanish settlement, the Army, and the present.

Tennessee Valley got its name from the Tennessee regiment that lived there in tents before going off to occupy the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. Long before that, this was the site of seasonal runoff and El Polin Creek, flowing down to Bay and draining into what's now the Crissy Field marsh near the remains of an Ohlone settlement. After 1776, the valley was the route of an unpaved road which connected the Presidio itself to the Mission Dolores via what is now Divisidero Street. Along this road and creek, archaeologists have found remains of the Presidio's earliest non-military adobe structures, dating from 1810 to 1840 belonging to the Miramontes and Briones families (yes, that Juana Briones) who were eventually evicted when the U.S. Army took over. Tennessee Valley was the site of a refugee tent camp after the 1906 Earthquake, In the 1930s the water was channelled downhill in a WPA project and the area was turned into a picnic ground and in the 1950s was partially built over with military housing.

The current project will manage water through the valley with a series of ponds stepping downhill and opening up El Polin, now either buried in culverts or shrubbery, along with a path through the area. More stream daylighting and wetlands restoration is on the calendar, especially down near the new Presidio Parkway, formerly known as Doyle Drive. Want to get dirty? There are lots of volunteer opportunities at the Presidio, some of which don't involve so much mud. Contact Jenny McIlvaine at the Trust for more information.
· "A Splendid Little War" [National Park Service]
· Presidio Archaeology [Presidio Trust]
· Volunteer Opportunities [Presidio Trust]
· Palo Alto: No Love For Adobe [Curbed SF]

Our thanks to the folks at the Presidio Trust: Clay Farrell and Jenny McIlvaine, and archaeologists Eric Blind and Kari Jones. -PF

The Presidio Trust

34 Graham Street, San Francisco, CA 94129