Recent excavations suggest Buena Vista outbuilding historically used as privy
Over the years, the small, white outbuilding beside the main house at Buena Vista has been called many things by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA) staff (the “Playhouse” most commonly), but its original use was not known for certain. Recent archaeological work on the building has solved the mystery: The “Playhouse” is actually a privy.
The building was partially excavated in September 2023, and the archaeologists working on the dig found plenty of evidence that it was originally used as an outhouse. Historic outhouses are very exciting to archaeologists, not only because they offer a glimpse into the diet of the people who used them, but also because they served as historic trash pits where people deposited household items. The work was prompted ahead of proposed repointing work on the masonry foundation, as the State Historic Preservation Office team works closely with HCA’s preservation maintenance team managers on capital projects.
Some of the interesting items found in the Buena Vista privy include hair dye bottles, toothbrushes and a toothpaste container. It was also discovered that the building used to be divided into two separate sections, with outside doors leading to each room, suggesting that the facility provided accommodations for two people at a time.
Part of the structure was left untouched, preserved for future exploration. The artifacts found are currently being processed at an archaeological lab in Virginia.
The grand mansion at Buena Vista was built between 1845 and 1847 by Delaware and U.S. statesman John Middleton Clayton (1796-1856). Today, the property is owned by HCA and is available to rent for meetings, trainings, retreats and other special occasions. To learn more about the history of Buena Vista, download Buena Vista: A Brief History. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-323-4430.