BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — What lies below the surface of the 110-year-old Monroe County Courthouse and its grounds?

A three-person crew on Monday surveyed the historical area using ground-penetrating radar, with a device that resembles a push mower, for those answers.

County Administrator Angie Purdie said mapping images of the subsurface and the accompanying report will be used as a reference for any future work on the courthouse square, such as landscaping. The goal is to also share the results with the public by having the information on the county’s Geographic Information System website.

The county commissioners contracted with Indianapolis-based Mundell and Associates Inc. for up to $6,400 to complete the underground survey.

County council member Cheryl Munson, an archaeologist and research scientist in the department of anthropology at Indiana University, said identifying historically sensitive areas on the courthouse square is important in order to ensure there is not any inadvertent destruction of the county’s history beneath the surface.

For example, Munson said, the site on which the courthouse now stands used to also house the first county library and a city fire station somewhere on the northeastern quadrant of the square. She said those structures were dismantled around the early 1900s as plans to build the existing courthouse moved forward. It is believed that remnants of their foundations remain buried under the courthouse square.

One structure Munson said she hopes the ground-penetrating radar can help identify is a privy or outhouse that is believed to have served as a public restroom.

“Privies are known, at other historic sites, to be a treasure trove of artifacts, characteristics of the time period,” Munson said.

The most recent catalyst to hiring a company to do this survey work was some tree removal and planting done earlier this year. Munson said the concern was that a number of the planting locations could be in historically sensitive areas that over time have been covered up.

Source: The (Bloomington) Herald Times,

Information from: The Herald Times,

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Bloomington) Herald Times.

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