East Kitchen Yard
The East Kitchen Yard, located between Monticello Mansion's South Dependency wing and Mulberry Row, was excavated by William Kelso and Susan Kern during several field seasons between 1980 and 1994. The area is rich in artifacts and features, highlighting a landscape history spanning 200 years up to and including 20th century trenches. Kelso's excavations exposed numerous features, including a large Jefferson-era cobble paving (F07) extending north-south through the excavation area. This pavement is probably the underlayment for a path that began at the All-Weather Passage southern entrance adjacent to the Monticello II kitchen, continued to Mulberry Row, and terminated at the terrace vegetable garden further south.
Jefferson-period documents relating directly to the East Kitchen Yard area are scarce. While there are several surveys, plats, and maps of the area, only one indicates the presence of any features south of the kitchen. In c.1776, Jefferson drafted a plan for Mulberry Row and the adjacent landscape (Jefferson: N87). Jefferson drew a path extending north from Mulberry Row in the direction of the main house, and south into the vegetable garden (image at right). Yet this is the only Jefferson document that records a path at this location.
While one survey conducted in 1806 depicts a dotted line in roughly the same location as the path in document N87, it is labeled as an "axis of the cellar passage" and is likely just a reference used while conducting the survey (Jefferson: N204). After 1776, all plats and surveys with a road connecting Mulberry Row and the mansion depict a kitchen road extending at an angle, not at a straight line and not on axis with the main house (Jefferson: N203, N204, N225).
Historical documents pertaining to other features in the East Kitchen Yard are equally scarce. However, a few post-Jefferson documents do indicate that the area around the house, likely including the Kitchen Yard, underwent some alterations after Jefferson's death. Much of the area was plowed during the years in which James Barclay owned Monticello from 1831 to 1834. In 1833 Martha Randolph wrote in a letter to a family member, "Barclay has... ploughed up the yard to the very edge of the lawn and planted it in corn" (Leepson 2001: 32). No other historical documents have been located pertaining to this area.
Excavation history, procedure and methods
In 1980, 1981, 1984, 1985, and 1989, William Kelso conducted excavations in the East Kitchen Yard area. Only one unit (Quadrat 207) was excavated in 1980 as part of a sampling project of the mountaintop landscape. The following year thirty-one additional two-by-two-foot units were excavated throughout the kitchen yard. Quadrat 207 from the 1980 excavations and quadrats from the 1981 excavations revealed portions of a large stone paving (Feature 07). The 1984-1985 field seasons focused on exploring this feature through block excavations conducted using the Wheeler-Box method. These excavations uncovered the remainder of the stone paving as well as postholes and other features. The stone paving itself was only sampled in two small sections.
In 1993, Susan Kern excavated six ten-foot by eight-foot quadrats adjoining the brick walkway that parallels the South Dependency wing. Utility lines and trenches as well as deep fill were discovered. No identifiable Jefferson-period features were found in Kern's excavations.
Summary of research and analysis
After completing excavation, Kelso stated in one report that indentifying the original Jefferson landscape of the East Kitchen Yard proved "elusive except that...all during the nineteenth century great quantities of trash were thrown indiscriminately into that yard" (Kelso 1997: 44). While he identified "occasional postholes and planting holes" that suggested "yard use and appearance," he did not believe they were evidence for formal landscaping during Jefferson's life (ibid). In addition, Kelso stated that the "entire area except the driveway [the stone paving, Feature 07] was deeply plowed" (ibid).
Kelso interpreted the north-south paving (F07) as a "stone sub-paving of a substantial walkway or driveway" (ibid). Wood found below the paving in one quadrat was interpreted as an original wooden surface of the walkway. Kelso's artifact analysis provided an estimated construction date of 1785 for this feature (ibid).
In 1993 Kern's excavations in the East Kitchen Yard area were part of the Monticello-UVA Summer Field School (Kern 1993). Kern hoped to discover evidence of Jefferson-period deposits and landscaping, analyze ceramics and other artifacts for clues about the lives of those living in the South Dependency Wing and activities conducted there, and identify evidence of other Jefferson-period features relating to the re-organization of that area when the South Dependency Wing was constructed in 1809 (Kern 1993).
Furthermore, Kern identified several deposits as Jefferson-period re-deposited subsoil, likely generated from leveling the kitchen yard. The majority of this suspected yard fill was left unexcavated, as during her excavations Kern did not reach subsoil in all quadrats.
As part of the initial Mulberry Row Reassessment Project, Martha Hill conducted extensive research of both historical documents and previous archaeological research pertaining to the East Kitchen Yard area. Her work provides a valuable discussion of the history of the kitchen yard area, including changes to landscape configuration during Jefferson's lifetime (Hill 2003). In particular, Hill provided a detailed interpretation of how the East Kitchen Yard was altered and leveled during the construction of the South Dependency wing and the All-Weather Passage under the mansion that began in 1801. Hill wrote:
"The excavations of the kitchen yard indicate that subsoil removed during construction of the south dependencies and tunnel was spread over the yard. This layer is quite deep near the arcade and diminishes as it descends the slope towards Mulberry Row; it covers the entirety of the yard" (ibid).
Kern discovered evidence of this massive earth-moving venture, as discussed above, while excavating immediately adjacent to the South Dependency wing.
Hill also identified three postholes (Features 09, 26, and 28) to the east of the paving (Feature 07) that were "probably contemporaneous with the paving " (ibid). Hill found no pattern to the postholes to the west but agreed with Kelso that they may have "seated fencing or light constructions, such as coops" (ibid).
Recent analysis of the East Kitchen Yard excavations support Kelso's interpretation of the north-south paving (F07) as a walkway between the mansion and Mulberry Row. However, there is no evidence that the wood identified by Kelso as the original wood surface of the walkway is definitively an earlier portion of that feature. The archaeological evidence for the dates for construction, use, and abandonment of this walkway remain elusive.
The function of the many postholes and small features in the East Kitchen Yard remains unclear; however, Hill's suggestion that they represent small temporary structures such as coops, or perhaps animal pens, seems likely. Given the proximity of the kitchen and building on Kelso's interpretation that this was not a formalized area, it seems reasonable to interpret this as a work yard that serviced the South Dependencies, kitchen, and house during Jefferson's life.
Furthermore, the deposits in this yard probably contain refuse from both the main house and the dependency wings. The ceramic assemblage contained sherds from forms used for both dining and household needs including plates, platters, teawares, and chamberpots. In addition to household ceramics, several utilitarian and food storage vessel fragments were identified during cataloguing. This suggests that waste from the nearby kitchen in the South Dependency wing was deposited in the East Kitchen Yard. This is supported by the cataloguing of several other kitchen artifacts, including thirteen cast iron pot or pan fragments.
Unfortunately, two of the three postholes (F09 and F28) to the east of the north-south paving that Hill referenced contain no diagnostic artifacts; however, the third posthole (F26) contains creamware and pearlware sherds, indicating a Jefferson-period construction date.
In addition, this area contains copious reminders that the mountain was occupied by more people than the Jefferson family. Plowscars throughout the site likely coincide with episodes of plowing during post-Jefferson occupation or possibly Jeffersonian leveling, just like the West Kitchen Yard. Some of the small features may also represent nineteenth and early twentieth century intrusions. Repeated cuts by modern utility trenches are a permanent reminder of the ongoing impact to, and alteration of, the mountaintop landscape.