Monthly Archives: February 2014

W. E. B. Du Bois W. E. B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite

The home site of William Edward Burghardt (W. E. B.) Du Bois (for whom the UMass Amherst main library is named) is located on South Egremont Road in Great Barrington, MA.  Du Bois lived there for the first 5 years of his life and then moved into the center of town.

W. E. B. Du Bois was given the home in 1928.  He had plans to rehabilitate it but due to financial and logistical reasons could not and had to sell it in 1954.  The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and donated to the state in 1987. It is maintained by UMass Amherst, its Physical Plant Division and the W. E. B. Du Bois Library along with the members of the UMass Anthropology department and the Friends of the W. E. B. Du Bois homesite.

A path created by the UMass Physical Plant crew.

A path created by the UMass Physical Plant crew.

The UMass Physical Plant staff first became involved in bettering the homesite around 2006.  The grounds crew has rid the area of poison ivy and poison oak.  Physical Plant cleared and surfaced a parking area.  They cleared and forged a path from the parking area to the home site and constructed a platform over the actual location of the original cellar hole of the home.  The cellar hole was filled in with general mason sand.  The different medium in the cellar hole allows the field schools the Anthropology department holds to identify what was put there versus the organic material.

Emily Felder & Ryan Howe excavating an archaeological unit during the UMass Archaeology Summer Field School, 2012.

Emily Felder & Ryan Howe excavating an archaeological unit during the UMass Archaeology Summer Field School, 2012.

The Anthropology department has conducted four field schools for archeological digs at the homesite in 1983, 1984, 2003, & 2012.  These events give students experience in archeological processes.  Over the years they have unearthed dishes, shoes, ice skates, metal bottles and toys among other items.

The crew is scheduled to go to the homesite a minimum of 4 times a year: one visit in the spring, two in the summer and 1 in the fall.  But they will always go if there is a special request.

New interpretive signage was installed at the homesite last year.  The signage was prepared by UMass Physical Plant and installed by a contractor.