This place, home of the Women’s League for Social Service, once hosted Coretta Scott King.

Townhouse located at 558 Massachusetts Ave. in the South End, it has long served as the Women’s League headquarters for Social Service. Boston City Archeology Program

A team of Boston archaeologists will soon begin new excavations in the South End, hoping to discover relics related to the Underground Railroad and other historical treasures.

The project is based on the premises Women’s League for Social Servicelocated at 558 Massachusetts Ave. It will be the first excavation in the area, according to city officials archeology program. The team will begin exploring the area on October 3 and are expected to continue working throughout the month.

The building, a stately brick home, was built in 1858 for William and Martha Carnes and their three children, the city said. Before the house was built, the builders filled the area in the former swamp. The Carnes family made profits from William’s furniture and the importation of precious woods.

Today, the building has most of the original interior as well as original wooden furniture.

Property owners have asked for excavations, the department said, to possibly allow for future expansion of the property. In particular, the League is working to finance a large-scale reconstruction of its headquarters. The $ 5 million equity campaign is on the way.

The organization restores the building, maintains ownership of its collections of documents and artifacts, and extends educational programs. The league proposed to make the building fully accessible by installing a wheelchair lift.

Archaeologists will work to determine what, if any, can be recovered from the property in order to provide new information on building owners and users over the decades. This includes searching for evidence related to the history of the underground railway.

The Carnes family were “devoted abolitionists,” according to the city’s archaeological program, and tradition passed down from generation to generation indicates that their home was a stop on the underground railroad.

As wealthy Bostonians, the Carnes family had four flush toilets and two showers at home for decades before the rest of the city had reliable access to running water and sanitation.

“I’m really curious to see what might be in the backyard of this house, considering they probably didn’t have an outhouse,” city archaeologist Joe Bagley said in a statement. “It is possible that the hired home help had a toilet outside, but there should be a large cistern and a septic tank somewhere on the site.”

However, just 10 years after it was built, the Carnes family sold their home to Nathaniel and Eliza Farwell. Nathaniel was the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, and owned a cotton mill. Their daughter Evelyn married a textile Ayer family.

“They were complicit in the cotton industry and benefited greatly from slave and later contracted labor in southern cotton plantations,” city archaeologists said.

The league purchased the building in 1920. Founded in 1918, the organization began as a group of black women committed to supporting black veterans returning from World War I. South End Historical Society. By organizing concerts, lectures and exhibitions, the group helped enrich the Boston Black community.

Blacks and immigrants flocked to the South End in the early 1900s, making it the most densely populated neighborhood in Boston in the late 1940s, city archaeologists say. The league hosted a soup kitchen, a dinner program for children and an exchange of clothes. The league organized the city’s first reading and playing room in the basement for members of the community.

Many black female students who were not welcome in their college dormitories lived in rooms managed by the League in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. One of these residents was Coretta Scott, future wife of Martin Luther King Jr. She lived in the building while studying at the New England Conservatory of Music and in the early stages of her relationship with King. League.

This archaeological work will focus on exploring the courtyard behind the building in collaboration with League members and other community members.

The excavations are open to the public and updates will be provided regularly by the city via social media posts. The final report is expected to be published next year. Members of the public can volunteer to help by enrolling in the program Bulletin.

Bagley and his team are hard at work on another excavation related to the Black story in Boston. Earlier this month, the team began excavations at 42-44 Shirley St. to learn more about the nearby historic mansion known as Shirley-Eustis House.

This mansion dates from 1747 and served as William Shirley’s seasonal country estate. First appointed by King George II as Royal Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Shirley and his family lived publicly as the face of the British Empire. The mansion has probably moved, and archaeologists hope to discover the relics from the first site. This includes enslaved human items that were owned by Shirley and later residents.

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