Building s is the best preserved of the three, single-family log cabins built in the mid-1790s at the eastern end of Mulberry Row. A large portion of its 12' X 14' stone foundation (F02), stone chimney base (F02), packed-earth floor (F03), and wood-lined sub-floor pit (F01) survived the 20th-century roadwork that graded the sites of Buildings r and t. Because of the documented similarity among these three structures, features uncovered in 1983 from the 1240 square foot excavation area of Building s have been used to determine the appearance of the other two. However, each had its own depositional history reflecting the conditions and activities of the enslaved families who inhabited them, as is becoming evident from the data provided by the DAACS recataloguing initiative.
On the 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration, Jefferson described three buildings edging Mulberry Row between the new log stables and the extant 1770s stone Workmen’s House, now referred to as the Weaver’s Cottage:
r. which as well as s. and t. are servants houses of wood with wooden chimnies, & earth floors, 12. by 14. feet, each and 27. feet apart from one another. from t. it is 85 feet to F. the stable [a wooden structure subsequently replaced by the extant stone stables]
These three log cabins had been built within the previous two years and were part of the rebuilding campaign Jefferson undertook during his first retirement from public life (1794-1801) (Hill 2002a and b).
Jefferson wrote his overseer Minoah Clarkson from Washington in September of 1792 with instructions that:
Five log houses are to be built at the places I have marked out, of chesnut logs, hewed on two sides and split with the saw, and dove tailed...They are to be covered [i.e., roofed] and lofted with slabs...Racks and mangers in three of them for stables [Building f]. (Boyd 1950-, vol. 24:412-414)
The following spring, Jefferson told his son-in-law and steward Thomas Mann Randolph to move all the enslaved house servants out of the stone Workmen’s House into “...the nearest of the new log-houses, which were intended for them; Kritty [Critta Hemings] taking the nearest of the whole, as oftenest wanted about the house” (Boyd 1950-, vol. 26:665), that is, the structure in the location of Building r on the 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration. Several months later, in August of 1793, Randolph reported to Jefferson that construction of the cabins had not yet begun but assured him that the work would be accomplished that winter (Boyd 1950-, vol. 26:667), during the slack period of the agricultural cycle. If not by the spring of 1794, Buildings r, s, and t were evidently in place by 1796—three dwellings rather than the two originally planned and, based on the archaeological evidence of a surviving sill fragment, of Southern yellow pine, rather than chestnut.
It is possible that Sally Hemings may have lived in Building s, but the evidence is inconclusive. Stanton (2000) suggests that Sally probably lived at the Workmen’s House with her sister Critta after she returned from France in 1789 (p. 112). If Critta did move to Building r as Jefferson intended in 1793, then Sally may have occupied the neighboring Building s, the next “nearest of the new log-houses.” A French delft medicine jar found at the Building s site lends some credence to this story . By 1808, both sisters and their families may have relocated to the quarters in the new south dependencies of the Monticello mansion (Stanton 2000:113). Documentary evidence suggests that their brother John Hemings subsequently moved into Building r, but the succeeding resident of Building s is unknown.
Excavation history, procedure, and methods
Excavation of the sites of Buildings r, s, and t began in the spring of 1983 with mechanical removal of the modern overburden (Sanford 1995:196). This included a paved roadway and parking lot laid down in 1934; an underlying level of furnace by-products dating to the early years of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation; and fill from a 1925 parking lot. Activity related to the roadwork impacted the Building s site, but not to the same extent as the flanking house sites of r and t.
Kelso and his crew discovered that three of the features (F01-03) exposed at the Building s site closely matched the predicted location, dimensions, and characteristics of the log dwelling Jefferson described in 1796, Building s. Most of the dry-laid stone foundation (F02) had been removed; a large portion of the packed-earth floor (F03) had been graded away; and a 20th-century posthole (F15) had been punched through the wood-lined sub-floor pit (F01). Subfloor pit at Building s with metal objects in situ. However, enough survived to make possible inferences about the appearance and use of Building s (Sanford in Kelso et al. 1985:26).
In addition to the evidence for Building s, exposure of the site revealed the remains of a second, previously unknown structure. Two brick piers (F22-23) mark the location of a building that straddled the sites of Building r and Building s. (See Building r site, F02-05.) A search of the Foundation’s photographic archives located a c.1912 photograph providing a glimpse of a white-washed wooden building with a brick chimney in this location. No analysis of its associated assemblages has yet been undertaken, but it likely dates to the period when Monticello belonged to the Levy family (1834-1923).
Initially a grid of twelve 10' X 10' excavation units was laid out, within which 8' X 8' quadrats were opened, leaving 2' intervening balks. Subsequent removal of the balks resulted in the excavation of units of varying sizes, from 2’ X 2’ to 2’ X 10’. Within units, excavation proceeded in natural levels with recorded beginning and ending elevations, but any relationship to a fixed datum point has been lost. Artifacts were recovered by a method of careful troweling without screening.
Summary of research and analysis
Good preservation of the Building s site combined with surviving documentation has made it possible to determine an unusual degree of detail about the manner of construction and history of use of the Building s site. Analysis of the assemblage associated with the 19th-century pier building at the Building s site has not yet been accomplished.
Kelso presented his conclusions about the appearance of Building s in a published isometric drawing (1997:60, fig. 21). It shows a cabin crafted of squared-off logs. The sides are sheathed with clapboards and the roof is covered with horizontally laid slabs. A single door, opening onto Mulberry Row, opposes a wattle-and-daub chimney on the southern gable end.
The archaeologically recovered portion of the foundation (F02) corresponds with Jefferson’s 1796 measurements of 12' X 14'. A scatter of stone (F02) and two small postholes (F19-20) indicate the base of an external chimney, roughly 6' 6" X 2' 6". The paling fence (F24-27), constructed in 1809 to enclose the vegetable garden, passed so closely along the back side of the structure that the wattle-and-daub chimney rose up between two of its posts. In front of the hearth, a 3' 8" X 3' 8" sub-floor pit (F01) had been inserted into the packed-earth floor. Fragments of its pre-formed, Southern yellow pine wood lining were preserved in the clay soil.
Kelso concluded that Building s was built in 1792-93, and persisted after the 1809 fence was installed, perhaps as late as Jefferson’s death in 1826. He argued that a comparative analysis of the assemblages from slave housing on Mulberry Row revealed a pattern of social and economic hierarchy within the slave community (1986a and b; see also Gruber in Kelso et al. 1985).
Gruber (in Kelso et al. 1985; 1990; 1991) addressed the issue of the source of the assemblage recovered at Building s and what, if any, conclusions could be drawn about the preferences and behavior of Jefferson’s slaves. She argued that Jefferson determined the form, appearance, and placement of the buildings in which enslaved people lived and worked but probably with some consideration of the preferences of his slaves. The objects used and discarded by slaves at Buildings r, s, and t, as at all slave quarters, had been provided by Jefferson and, therefore, expressed more overtly his paternalism than slave preferences. The superior quality of ceramics and cuts of meats bespoke the advantages of living and working close to Jefferson’s mansion.
Sanford (1995) estimated the period of occupation of the Building s site to be ca. 1790 to 1830. He based the beginning date on mean ceramic dates as well as documentary evidence. He derived the terminal date from the artifact assemblage alone (p. 201). He observed that the area underlying the structure had been prepared by using large greenstone cobbles (F02) to level the surface. The floor (F03) was built up on the interior of the foundation using clay, gravel, and cobbles. (Sanford 1995:204; Sanford in Kelso et al. 1985:27-28). Sanford thought that postholes (F17, F21, F28) off to one side of the structure could be the remains of a 3' x 5' addition (Sanford 1995:25; Sanford in Kelso et al. 1985:30).
DAACS completed recataloguing of the Building s site assemblage in 2002. Several papers presented at the 2003 Society for Historical Archaeology conference used this data (Arendt 2003, Galle and Neiman 2003, Heath 2003, Olson 2003). These preliminary studies of ceramics, buttons, and tools demonstrate the utility of recording more fine-grained observations of artifacts. The greater temporal and stylistic sensitivity of the database yields insights into the variability among enslaved households in the selection of available consumer goods and the conditions informing their choices.