When you’re working on a site whose history is as layered as that of the El Moore, you’re bound to discover remnants of the past. This week we made two such discoveries.
As we broke ground on the El Moore green alley in the beginning of the week, our site contractor, J.D. VanOverbeke, was removing sections of the old concrete alley. As they reached the edge of the twenty foot wide alley just west of the El Moore building, they scraped across an orange brick foundation that had been buried below a foot of dirt. Further exploration revealed a four sided foundation measuring a building footprint of roughly 20 by 30 feet, complete with the concrete flooring still intact.
Upon inspecting Sanborn maps of the property that reveal the various structures that have occupied the site over the decades, it became clear that this had been the carriage house for the home that once stood at 640 W Alexandrine, complete with a sidewalk that linked it to the back of the house. The home and carriage home were demolished sometime between 1961 and 1977 and replaced with a parking area for the El Moore building. We’d found the remnants of the home when we were excavating for the new elevator tower earlier in the summer and now it was clear that the demolition simply involved pushing the home and likely the carriage house into the basement of the home and then bringing in dirt to cover the site and create the parking area on top.
At the end of that same day we were presented with this horseshoe that was found under the pavement of the alley. The contractor that removed it owns horses and commented on the size of the shoe, noting that this was large for a horseshoe and more likely a pulling horse as opposed to a riding horse. This would certainly make sense considering the large homes and carriage houses that once flanked Alexandrine before multifamily buildings like the El Moore began replacing them in the late 1800s. While it’s exciting to be preparing the El Moore and surrounding properties for the future, discoveries like these are important reminders that our efforts are yet another layer to a complex history of the neighborhood. Who knows what someone will find at this location 100 years from now….