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Work on SLO's Chinatown project unearths historical artifacts

Archaeologists with Applied EarthWorks — from left, Neil Rhodes, Marc Linder, Keith Warren and Phil Clarkson — excavate an area on Monterey Street as part of construction of Copeland Properties' Chinatown project.
Archaeologists with Applied EarthWorks — from left, Neil Rhodes, Marc Linder, Keith Warren and Phil Clarkson — excavate an area on Monterey Street as part of construction of Copeland Properties' Chinatown project. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Archaeologists working for a few weeks at the site of the Chinatown project in downtown San Luis Obispo have located foundations and walls dating back to the Mission and Rancho periods, as well as the 19th and 20th centuries.

“I do believe we’ve found the foundations of an old adobe that is shown on some of the earliest maps of town as the Sauer Adobe,” said Barry A. Price, vice president of San Luis Obispo-based Applied EarthWorks Inc.

A team from the firm was on hand to look for archeological deposits as construction work began about three weeks ago.

The archeologists recovered historical artifacts as the buildings and pavement were removed and layers of fill were peeled away along Monterey Street between the historic Muzio and Sauer Bakery buildings.

In addition to foundations and walls, the team found some privies behind the buildings, which are typically found on 19th-century excavation sites, Price said.

Often, when a building changed hands in the days before modern trash disposal, trash was dumped into the privy, which was then closed up.

“Frequently you have these beautiful little time capsules in the privies, and over the course of 100 years or more all the nasty stuff is absorbed into the ground and you’re left with these nice discreet archeological features full of artifacts,” Price said. “We’ve just started to sample them.”

The Chinatown development will bring additional retail, apartments and a hotel to downtown San Luis Obispo and revive a stretch of Monterey Street that has been vacant for years.

A two-story retail segment of the development will include 37 residential units on the second floor of existing historic buildings, as well as 50,310 square feet of retail space and 2,780 square feet of office space. An adjacent 78-room hotel will be built on Palm Street, with construction anticipated to start in about six months.

Mark Rawson, project architect for Copeland Properties, said observers will be able to see the steel frame after about four months of foundation work on Monterey Street. The project is expected to wrap up in summer or fall 2016.

Rawson declined to disclose the project cost.

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