Stanford University

News Service



Kate Chesley, University Communications: (650) 725-3697,

Archaeological items featured at Community Day; contest launched to guess functions of century-old items

At Community Day at Stanford on April 6, participants will have the opportunity to participate in a contest to guess the functions of century-old items recently unearthed in excavations at the site of the former mansion of Leland and Jane Stanford.

Stanford University Archaeologist Laura Jones and her colleagues plan to show visitors items found where the university founders' mansion stood on Sand Hill Road. The mansion was badly damaged in the 1906 earthquake, and most of the structure collapsed on itself. The attached servants' quarters wing survived the earthquake and, in 1920, was converted to the Children's Convalescent Home.

The home was demolished in 1965 to make way for the Stanford Children's Hospital, and the remnants of the mansion lay forgotten beneath a lawn until Jones rediscovered the site in 1994. The site was excavated prior to construction of a new assisted-living facility.

Jones plans to display items that will suggest the technological advances of the day featured in the mansion, as well as the Victorian-era color scheme favored by the Stanfords. An online contest to guess the function of excavated items -- only some of which have been identified to date -- has been launched on the web at Visitors to Community Day also will have the opportunity to participate in the contest during the event.

Among the prizes that will be offered is the opportunity to spend a day with Jones as she performs her archaeological duties for the university. Other prizes include a 50-minute, full body massage from the Center for Integrative Medicine; a free course in Stanford's Continuing Studies program; tickets to a Stanford Lively Arts performance; membership in the Stanford Historical Society; family membership to the Cantor Arts Center; and a family pass to Department of Music performances.

Jones said the glass, pottery and metal to be displayed during Community Day reveals information not only about the Stanfords but also about commerce, gender and social class in the United States near the turn of the century.

The excavation at the Stanford mansion and the items found there have given historians a rare glimpse into the private life of the Stanfords, who left behind a wide range of public records but little to reveal their private lives, Jones said. One of the big surprises for archeologists at the dig has been the bright color of the bits of wall plaster recovered from the site. Even after nearly a century underground, the plaster bits are still brilliant shades of tangerine, deep red, violet blue and chartreuse.

Jones has offered a number of hints about the 10 items in the archaeology contest:

1. While many pieces of pink, gold and white china were found in the excavation, none of these appear to be pieces of plates or cups.

2. Leland Stanford Sr. visited a spa in Bad Kissingen, Germany, for stress relief.

3. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876; by the end of 1880 there were 47,900 telephones in the United States.

4. Jane Stanford's telephone number was Main 3 in 1904.

5. The Stanfords' servants did the family laundry in the basement of the house.

6. There were a variety of heating systems installed in the house.

In preparation for Community Day, Jones and her students are reassembling the excavated pieces, now stored in hundreds of carefully labeled plastic bags. Many have been subjected to a chemical bath that carries a weak electric charge and can remove decades of accumulated rust from metal.

Community Day, which was held for the first time last year, is designed to promote partnerships and increase understanding among Stanford and its neighbors, especially the residents of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Woodside, Mountain View and Portola Valley. Spectacular weather and a schedule brimming with activities drew about 6,500 to the first Community Day last spring. All Community Day events are free and open to the public. Most events will be centered on or near the university's Main Quadrangle and Oval at the end of Palm Drive. Free parking will be provided, and food will be available for purchase. Information about the event is available at

For more information on Community Day, call Stanford University Communications at (650) 724-2933, send an e-mail to or visit the website at



© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300. Terms of Use  |  Copyright Complaints