Building n (Wash House) & 1809 Stone House
The 1809 Stone House site is named for a masonry dwelling that documents reveal was completed in 1809. It succeeded an earlier log structure which Jefferson identified as Building n, a washhouse, on the 1796 Mutual Assurance plat. Following the sale of Monticello after Jefferson's death, the new owner, Uriah P. Levy, used the Stone House as a burial site for his mother in 1839. To this day, the tomb and headstone of Rachel Levy remain at this location (Urofsky 2001:197). The grave marker serves as the major visible reminder of the family that owned Monticello for nine decades (Urofsky 2001:193).
The site was first excavated by Dr. Oriol Pi-Sunyer in 1957. In 1973, the stonework was dismantled and rebuilt for structural reasons. During parts of the 1979, 1980, 1982, and 1984 field seasons, Dr. William Kelso conducted excavations both inside the structure and in the exterior area directly to the east. An additional excavation unit to the northeast of the stone foundation was excavated in 1994 under the direction of Dr. Susan Kern in order to investigate the original Mulberry Row tree plantings.
While the construction date of Building n is unknown, the earliest known documentation of the structure is found in Jefferson's 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration (Jefferson: N133), where he described it as:
"n. a wash house 16 1/2 f. square of wood, the chimney also wood, the floor earth. From n. it is 38. f. to [o]"
There is a possible reference to its construction in a Jefferson memorandum for Nicholas Lewis dated to November 1790, where he instructed:
"A wash house 16. feet square to be built and placed where I pointed out to George" (Boyd et al, 1971: 29).
The similarity of the dimensions mentioned in 1790 and 1796 indicate that they refer to the same building. There are no further references to this building until October 1808, when it may have been mentioned in correspondence between Jefferson and his overseer Edmund Bacon. On October 17, Jefferson wrote from Washington:
"I expect mr Madox is now about the stable, & the house laid off where an old loghouse stands..." (T.J. to E.B. 1808 Oct 17)
to which Bacon replied:
"we are going on with Leaveling the garden also getting stone for the houses to be built" (E.B. to T.J. 1808 Oct 21).
On November 17, Bacon wrote that the stone mason, Mr. Sammons, had not yet begun work due to the weather, but hoped to the following Monday (E.B. to T. J. 1808 Nov 17). As of December 6 of that year, a letter from Jefferson implied that the construction across from the "Outchamber"-another term used for the South Pavilion (Jefferson: N133)-had not yet been completed, and he implored his overseer to get it done (T.J. to E.B. 1808 Dec 6). On January 12, 1809, Bacon wrote that the stone house was in progress and asked what kind of roof should be put on (on the bottom of this letter, Jefferson made a notation that the "roof of stone house 167.25," (E.B. to T.J. 1809 Jan 12), suggesting a possible cost). In February, James Dinsmore also wrote to ask about the roof as ...
"it will make some difference in carrying up the shaft of the chimney" (J.D. to T.J. 1809 Feb 24).
to which Jefferson specified:
"the roof to be hipped every way" (T.J. to J.D. 1809 Feb 27).
Sometime during 1809, the new stone house was presumably completed, as a structure appeared opposite the South Pavilion on the 1809 survey of the mountaintop which included Mulberry Row (Jefferson: N225). In comparison, a previous plat from 1806 depicted the South Pavilion, but did not show a stone structure opposite it (Jefferson: N204).
Jefferson sometimes used buildings along Mulberry Row as points of reference. Between 1809 and 1817, Jefferson often referred to the "stone house" in his Garden Book, but it is unclear whether he meant the 1809 stone house, completed around the same time that his terraced begetable garden was expanded (E.B. to T.J. 1808 Oct 21), or Building E, a surviving masonry structure also known as the Weaver's Cottage or Workmens House.
Excavation history, procedure and methods
In 1957, Oriol Pi-Sunyer excavated two parallel trenches along Mulberry Row to locate Jefferson-era structural remains. He selected the 1809 Stone House as the eastern limit of the season's excavations (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 17). He noted that he was unable to dig within the structure due to the location of the burial (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 17). Instead he dug trenches along the exteriors of the east and west walls, refraining from doing the same along the north and south ones due to structural flaws. He excavated to subsoil (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 7) and did not screen for artifacts. Because of the lack of stratigraphic contexts, the artifact data from these excavations were not included in the Mulberry Row Reassessment Project.
William Kelso directed the majority of excavations at the 1809 Stone House. In 1979, he opened two excavation units to the southeast of the structure as part of a larger project to identify fence lines that separated the buildings on Mulberry Row from the terraced garden to the south. These units measured 10-by-4 feet each, one of them intercepting the end of the trench Pi-Sunyer dug along the eastern wall. In 1980, a single 14.75-by-3.0 foot unit was excavated along the interior west wall of the structure to look for a Jefferson-period garden entrance thought to be in the area. This was the same spot where a trench was dug in the 1970s to repair the stone foundation and install a concrete footing.
In 1982, Kelso dug six units east of the 1809 Stone House. These were originally undertaken as part of the excavations of Building o and were later reassigned to the 1809 Stone House project as part of the Mulberry Row Reassessment. These units varied in size and were arranged in two columns separated by a 2-foot baulk, overlapping with the eastern trench dug by Pi-Sunyer.
Kelso did not return to the 1809 Stone House until 1984, when he placed four additional excavation units inside the Stone House structure. These units varied in size: two 8-by-5 foot units, one 5-by-5 foot unit, and one 5-by-4 foot unit. In addition, he removed a 5-by-1 foot baulk between two of the units.
In 1994, Susan Kern led excavations searching for the planting holes for the original mulberry trees that lined Mulberry Row. She placed one unit to the northeast of the Stone House, directly north of the original Pi-Sunyer trench.
Summary of research and analysis
At the 1809 Stone House, Pi-Sunyer focused on an architectural analysis of the exterior stone walls. He measured the building to be approximately 21-by-18 feet (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 17) with a central entrance facing Mulberry Row (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 18). He noted that these measurements were not exact, due to the extensive vegetation that could not be removed from the walls (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 18). During the excavations on the exterior of the east and west walls he discovered that the mortar used on the above-ground stonework was different than that below surface-level. The mortar between stonework visible above the surface was applied much more heavily, and Pi-Sunyer suggested this was evidence that the standing walls were re-erected at some point following the building's original construction (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 18-19) and that the walls may have been taken down around the time of the 1839 burial of Rachel Levy.
Pi-Sunyer noted that most of the artifacts recovered consisted of metal, and that glass and ceramics occurred in lesser amounts. He identified enough of the artifacts as Jefferson-period to suggest that this building was one of the original houses along Mulberry Row.
Although there is no analysis or write-up associated with work undertaken in 1982, the context records completed at the time of excavation (originally associated with the Building o project) reveal that investigators were looking in the area just to the east of the standing Stone House for evidence of Building n, the washhouse that originally appeared in Jefferson's documents. Features include at least one posthole (F09) containing several stones, which could possibly be part of a fence line pre-dating the 1809 fence line to which the postholes on the southern end of the excavation area were thought to belong. There was also a variety of other features, including several postholes, a concentration of sandy orange mortar as well as an alignment of stones and greenish-grey mortar oriented east-west, suggesting a possible earlier building foundation. It will be imperative to conduct additional analysis of excavation reports and recovered artifacts to determine any possible uses for this area.
Kelso started the 1984 excavations within the structure with the purpose of determining whether the stonework were remains of the original Jefferson building. During that field season, archaeologists uncovered, "a massive stone chimney foundation contemporary with and centered on the southeast wall," (Kelso 1984a:1), which corroborates the documentary evidence that the building was constructed with a chimney. He noted that there were similarities between the chimneys of the 1809 Stone House and the Joinery (Building C, further west along Mulberry Row) which is still partially standing. These similarities included overall size, destruction level, and mixture of stone and brick (Kelso 1984a: 2).
Kelso also mentioned that that there was a lack of mortar and stone rubble near the three walls that did not include the chimney and theorized that the structure of the building above the window sills was made of wood. He noted
"...the ruin suggested that there was a central door on the Mulberry Row side. The near central fireplace suggests that the structure had only one room, and the hipped roof eliminates the possibility of living space in the loft," (Kelso 1997: 61-62).
Based on the classification of artifacts recovered as domestic, he interpreted the 1809 Stone House as a slave dwelling (Kelso 1997: 61). Kelso also hypothesized that its construction was in line with Jefferson's desires to "upgrade Mulberry Row" with "more aesthetic replacements," (Kelso 1997: 44,46).
Further analysis of the excavation records and artifacts conducted under the Mulberry Row Reassessment suggest the existence of a previously unrecognized structure that has been given the designation "Mulberry Row Structure 5" or "MRS-5". This potential structure is comprised of the stone and mortar concentration that Kelso and his team uncovered to the east of the 1809 Stone House. Multiple kinds of stone with at least two different kinds of mortar form a dense concentration on the same stratigraphic level and with what appears to be a straight edge running parallel to Mulberry Row. The unit to the northeast, excavated by Sue Kern in 1994, may have a corner of the stone paving of MRS-5, however, evidence is not clear enough to determine whether or not it belongs to the structure.
One issue with the identification of MRS-5 as a structure is that, although the apparent edge is straight and aligned with Mulberry Row, MRS-5 extends a little farther north towards the road area than any other known Jefferson-period structure. Furthur excavation may provide answers. ER 545, a unit in which the stone and mortar concentration was expected to extend, was not excavated to the depth of the stone. The area directly to the north of the stone concentration remains unexcavated, as do the 2-foot baulks (presumably undisturbed) that run through the middle and to the east of the structure.
Phasing of the site (see the section titled 'Chronology') suggests three postholes located on the northernmost edges of ER 181 and ER 185 are remnants of the earliest known fence line, referred to as the 1796 fence line. The construction of this fence is not actually documented, but is referenced in the 1796 plat in that the buildings are "shortly to be connected by a row of paling," (Jefferson:N133). Although the date of construction is not confirmed, it is possible that when the paling fence was erected, it prevented the erosion and subsequent movement and deposition downhill of the later phases of material goods into the southernmost units, keeping the earliest phase close to the ground surface.
MRS-5 seems to be earlier than the 1809 Stone House on the basis of stratigraphic and ceramic evidence. Deposits that could be unambigiously connected with the Wash House, or Building n as referenced on the the 1796 plat, were never identified in the field or in subsequent re-analysis.