Mitigating Impact from Development: The "Old Coe Place"

    ACS conducted a Phase III mitigation of the "Old Coe Place" in Ansonia, Connecticut. Background research during a Phase I survey revealed that this was the site of the Coe home-stead and shoe shop from the mid 18th through late 19th Century, although functional variability between different parts of the site could not be assessed without further evaluation. Impact of the area could not be avoided through alternative design planning, thus ACS was engaged to document the site so that its partial destruction would not result in the loss of valuable data.


A 'vamp', or partially finished leather shoe part from the 'Old Coe Place'.


    Features identified within the impact area include three fieldstone foundations. The southern foundation was located adjacent to a discontinued portion of Coe Lane, with collapsed side-walls obscuring most of the foundation. Excavation units placed in this area revealed a high density of material including a variety of household ceramics, glass, and metal artifacts. The assemblage also included numerous personal items such as a thimble, brooch, buttons and other clothing fasteners, and a postage stamp case which was produced and used as currency during the Civil War when ammunition production needs caused a shortage in metal for coins. More significantly, this area produced numerous shoe tacks and partially finished shoe-leather parts indicating manufacture within a household setting. A standard mean date formula was applied to these materials, suggesting an occupation from about 1770 to 1830. Similar household materials were recovered from the northern foundation, although the mean date for this area suggests a range of occupation from about 1820 to the late 19th Century. In conjunction with information from 19th Century maps showing slightly different positions of the Coe residence, it became clear that the northern structure was built as a replacement for the southern structure which lay in an area revealing burnt brick and mortar fragments.


A 'ten-footer'. These structures were commonly built in the mid-19th Century by small, independent shoe manufacturers who hired travelling specialists to perform specific tasks in the sequence of shoe-making. A foundation recorded at the 'Old Coe Place' supported a ten-footer similar to the one shown in front of a 20th Century shoe factory.


    There was a general lack of shoe manufacturing items recovered in the north foundation area, attributable to the presence of the third foundation which contained shoe tacks. This smaller foundation measures only 10 feet across, and through extensive historic research was determined to represent a "ten-footer". These structures became quite common throughout New England during the mid 19th Century as the cottage shoe industry began to specialize. Travelling teams of specialists toured distinct geographic areas, performing singular tasks at ten-footers of individual proprietors. By the end of the 19th Century, however, small manufacturers could no longer compete with industrialized shoe factories in major market centers, probably contributing to the abandonment of the site by the Coe family. The site represents an important trend of change in the economics of shoe manufacturing that similarly occurred with other industries - evolving from a small cottage industry of the late 18th Century, becoming more specialized during the mid 19th Century, and eventually becoming fully industrialized by the 20th Century.


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