In 1957, Oriel Pi-Sunyer ran two parallel test trenches along Mulberry Row, locating several structures that Jefferson identified on his Mutual Assurance Declaration in 1796, including Building l, “a storehouse for nail rod & other iron.” In 1981, William Kelso cleared an area of 828 square feet, exposing a 16' X 10' 6" brick (F01) and cobble floor (F03) containing the base of a small forge (F02) and a posthole for an anvil support (no feature number assigned). The features and objects he recovered hint at diverse activities spanning the 1790s to Jefferson’s death in 1826, including tinsmithing, nailrod storage, nail manufacture, and domestic use. Recent reanalysis of the assemblage by DAACS reveals that the Building l site overlays an unexcavated deposit of pre-1790s material, possibly the remains of an earlier structure.
In 1796, Jefferson described one of the structures along Mulberry Row in his Mutual Assurance Declaration:
l. a house 16. by 10 ½ feet, of wood, used as a storehouse for nailrod & other iron. from l. it is 8. feet to m [the Smokehouse/Dairy].
This is the only surviving document specifically mentioning Building l. It is identified as a storehouse for the blacksmith shop on Mulberry Row and its two-year-old nailery operation. However, archaeological excavation provides evidence that tinsmithing, nail-making, and domestic activity also took place in this structure, leading to a reassessment of the documentary record.
Artifacts and remains of a forge (F02) and anvil base recovered from the Building l site suggest that the log structure may have begun life as a tinsmithing shop. The only documentation of the whitesmithing operation is an account given in 1847 by Isaac Jefferson (born into slavery at Monticello in 1775). He recalled that Thomas Jefferson apprenticed him to a Quaker in Philadelphia and that he subsequently worked as a tinsmith at Monticello for two years before the operation failed (Bear 1967: 15-16). This apprenticeship likely occurred before January of 1794, when Thomas Jefferson left Philadelphia and retired from government service for the first time.
Recent archaeological analysis indicates that Building l continued to be used throughout Jefferson's lifetime for concurrent or alternate domestic use and light industry. A cluster of nail-making debris dating to late in the occupation of the building suggests that when Jefferson resumed nail-making in a small way after the War of 1812 (Mar. 4, 1815, TJ to Benjamin Jones (Betts 1953:451), Building l, still standing with its single forge (F02) and anvil, may have supplied a ready-made location.
By November of 1794, Isaac Jefferson was listed in the Farm Book (Betts 1953: pl. 30) as a smith. On the bread list for 1796, Isaac was again identified as ‘smith Isaac’ (ibid. pl. 50), but on the ration list for 1796 (ibid. pl. 51), he was among the “nail boys” working in the blacksmith’s shop. This demotion probably marks the demise of the tinsmithing enterprise and Isaac Jefferson’s reassignment to the nail shop.
In 1957, Pi-Sunyer (1957) ran parallel exploratory trenches from the Levy Tomb to the ruins of the Joinery. He provisionally designated an exposed area of brick paving (F01) as Structure III, but determined its location corresponded to Building l on Jefferson’s Mutual Assurance plat. Pi-Sunyer was primarily concerned with uncovering architectural remains and finding type specimens. He did not excavate in stratigraphic layers and he returned all but a handful of recovered artifacts to the trenches when he backfilled the site.
In 1979, Kelso (1982) uncovered part of Building l while excavating the northern perimeter of the 1809 fence (F04-08) of Jefferson’s vegetable garden. In 1981, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Archaeology Department extended its excavation in order to expose the entire site of the Storehouse for Iron (F01-03), as he designated the Building l site. He also exposed a line of modern postholes (F09-12) edging Mulberry Row to the north.
Kelso’s crew excavated in stratigraphic levels and retained recovered artifacts, but introduced some additional interpretive problems by excavating in units of varying sizes and not screening for artifacts. Although excavators recorded opening and closing elevations for most quadrats, these measurements are not related to a known, fixed datum point.
In 1999, prior to the DAACS project, the Monticello Archaeology Department staff used previously generated artifacts, plans, and registers to reanalyze the excavations of Pi-Sunyer and Kelso. This work resulted in a reassessment of the site, reported by Scholnick et al. 2001.
Summary of Research
In 1957, Oriel Pi-Sunyer intended his test trenching to verify the 1796 plat, that is, find the remains of Jefferson’s observations of Mulberry Row. This approach collapsed a potentially rich occupational history into a single event–the role of Building l in 1796 as a “storehouse for nailrod and other iron.” He concluded that his finds matched the building Jefferson had described. Because the portion of the floor covered in greenstone cobbles (F03) was lower than the brick paving (F01), Pi-Sunyer suggested that the surface had all been originally paved with brick. Approximately half of it had been subsequently robbed for reuse after the building’s demise, revealing the cobble substrate.
William Kelso (1982, 1986a, 1986b, 1997) recognized that archaeology revealed more activity than recorded in the Mutual Assurance plat, i.e., nail-making (represented by slag and nailrod) and domestic activity (represented by faunal remains and the variety and quantity of ceramics). He inferred that the Storehouse must have been built after 1790 and, in addition to storage, served as a small nailery until around 1796, when it briefly served as a storehouse for nail rod. Kelso suggested that shortly after Jefferson drew up the Mutual Assurance Declaration, Building l evolved into a two-room slave quarter with a brick-lined, sub-floor pit (F02) near a chimney in the western end. The log structure must have remained in place until 1809 when the new garden fence (F04-08) was installed, because the fence postholes seemed to veer around it. However, he concluded from the absence of Building l on a key 1809 plat that the cabin must have been dismantled soon after the fence was erected.
Douglas Sanford argued in his dissertation (1995) that the artifact assemblage of Building l supported a 1780 to 1809 date of occupation. He thought the structure was first used for nailrod storage with some nail-making activity and then dedicated to domestic use. It was probably constructed of logs erected on a prepared paving (F01 and F03). Sanford placed the postholes associated with the ca.1809 garden fence (F04-08) within the floor of the structure, thus fixing a date by which the structure must have been removed. He concluded that the brick-lined box (F02) was not a sub-floor pit, but supported an iron-working forge. The structure served as a storehouse and nailery up until at least 1796. He concurred with Kelso that the storehouse subsequently became a dwelling for slaves. Sanford does not account for the use of the space between 1780 and 1794 when Jefferson records the commencement of the nailery operation at Monticello.
Scholnick et al.:
Conclusions based on recent reanalysis by the Monticello Archaeology Department differ from previous interpretations in some key ways regarding the duration of occupation of the structure, its appearance, and its use. Based on a reconsideration of stratigraphic contexts, Scholnick et al. (2001) concluded that Building l was built in the early 1790s and that it continued to be used after 1809, most likely up until Jefferson’s death.
Construction of the Storehouse for Iron began with the preparation of a greenstone and clay base (F03) capped with a brick paving (F01). A one-room log cabin was erected on this platform. Based on analogy with excavations at the Anderson Forge in Williamsburg, the mortared brick box (F02) inserted into the floor supported a brick forge. Comparison of the profiles of postholes for anvil bases at Mulberry Row’s Nailery with the posthole (no feature number assigned) in the center Building l’s surviving brick paving suggests that the base of an anvil stood in this location. Both anvil and forge were likely original appointments, if the cabin was built to accommodate Isaac Jefferson’s short-lived tinsmithing shop, as suggested by artifacts and documents (Hill 2002a and b).
The artifact assemblage attests to the subsequent use of Building l for both nail-making and as a dwelling—probably for slaves. Using available quantitative methods, it is not possible to differentiate between discrete episodes of domestic and industrial activity. This may be the result of either the use of Building l simultaneously as a dwelling and a nail-making facility throughout its occupation or the creation of depositional contexts over such an extensive period of time that they contain samples from both domestic and industrial phases. What is clear is that the intensity of nail-making activity at Building l altered relative to domestic activity; there was an initial increase in nail-making, followed by an increase in domestic activity, followed by a second increase in nail-making. The latter may represent Jefferson’s documented resumption of nail-making after the War of 1812.
DAACS data on Building l has only been available for a short time, but preliminary analysis has already challenged previous assumptions about the character of the assemblage and the behavior of the people who lived and worked at Building l. More refined stylistic descriptions of ceramics (Arendt 2003, Galle and Neiman 2002b and 2003, Neiman et al. 2003) and buttons (Heath 2003) demonstrate that the quality of consumer goods discarded at the site was similar to that of other domestic sites on Mulberry Row. The differences among the sites reflect temporal variation in the availability of types of goods and the expression of consumer preferences.
Guided by the 1796 Mutual Assurance plat, Kelso and Pi-Sunyer’s excavations stopped with the exposure of evidence of Building l. DAACS reveals that Building l overlays an older site. In one unit, Kelso’s excavation punched through the living surface of the Storehouse for Iron. Artifacts recovered from this level predate the construction of Building l. Further excavation is required to determine if the material was discarded in situ or redeposited from another location.