Building C (Joiner's Shop)
The Joinery, identified by Thomas Jefferson as Building C or the joiner's shop, was a space used by both enslaved and free craftsmen for fine architectural and furniture woodworking. Located near the western end of Mulberry Row, the Joinery operated between c.1776 and c.1826 and today is one of the few sites at Monticello where architectural remains are visible above ground. For many years following the sale of Monticello Plantation after Jefferson's death, this structure was identified mistakenly as the Nailery; however, both the location and construction materials of the foundation support its identification as the Joinery. Pi-Sunyer uncovered the stone underpinning in 1957, whereas more recent excavations focused on neighboring landscape features rather than the Joinery proper. Dr. William Kelso intercepted the southwest corner of the foundation as he traced a Jefferson-period fence line during excavations in 1979. In 1994, Dr. Susan Kern encountered the foundation's north edge during her search for Mulberry Row tree planting holes.
Although the exact construction date of the Joinery is not known, a c.1776 conjectural sketch shows a "Joiner's shop" (labeled building "No. 4") in line with a wood yard, timber yard, and several other structures (Jefferson: N85). The location for the proposed structures is not specified, yet the document suggests a joinery was envisioned as early as 1776.
A measured drawing (c.1776-1778) similar to N85 depicts a "Joiners" building in a row of structures near a garden (Jefferson: N87). The "Joiners" on N87 is located on the east rather than west end of Mulberry Row, between the "Negro Quarter" and a "Workmen's House" (Jefferson: N87 and N88) and near the future site of Building r (Jefferson: N133). Excavations at the Building t site revealed the remains of the "Negro Quarter," dating to the 1770s and in the location depicted on N87. Similarly, the "Workmen's House" on N87 corresponds with the extant Building E (see image, right). The dimensions of both structures, as well as the distance between them, matches almost exactly with the measurements provided on N87. Given that those two buildings were both planned and constructed in the 1770s suggests an early "Joiners" building probably existed on the east end of Mulberry Row. The area where an early "Joiners" may have once stood is unexcavated, so it is not possible at this time to determine if the plan to build the "Joiners" building on N87 was implemented.
Several years later, in a letter dated March 2, 1784, Jefferson mentions a "new shop" along Mulberry Row, which may refer to a newly-constructed Joinery (Boyd 1950 (7): 3):
"...build the house between little house and new shop..."
The earliest surviving document that records the Joinery in a location that better matches the archaeological findings is Jefferson's 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration (Jefferson: N133). Building C was identified as:
"a joiner's shop, 57. feet by 18. feet, the underpinning and chimney of stone, the walls and roof of wood."
Extensive documentation of the presence of the Joinery on Mulberry Row exists after 1800. An insurance inventory from 1800 records a "Joiner's shop," valued at 320 dollars (Bear and Stanton 1997: 1025). An Albermarle County Survey of Monticello, conducted the same year, describes a one-story joinery (Jefferson: N546, as reproduced in Hill 2002b (8)). After 1806, the Joinery appears on most maps of the mountain as a landmark (Jefferson: N203 p.2, N204, N209, N214, N215, N216, N218, N225). Visitors to Monticello after Jefferson's death in 1826 describe the crumbling foundation and chimney of the joinery. For example, visitor Emma Frances Allen wrote in 1899, mistakenly identifying the Joinery as the Nailery (Hill 2003 (4): Section 23):
"Leaving the cemetery & driving through the woods an eighth of a mile or so, and still ascending, we came to the lawn, and soon passed the ruins of the nail factory. Parts of three walls are standing, well draped with ivy which here keeps green the year through..."
Historical accounts identify people, both enslaved and free, who worked at the Joinery. Jefferson hired Thomas Walker in 1773 to construct elements for Monticello I (Hill 2003 (8): Section 6). Later, David Watson worked off and on as a joiner from 1781 to 1797. James Dinsmore, John Neilson, and James Oldham also worked as skilled joiners during the construction of Monticello II (Bear and Stanton 1997: 508, 985, 1163; Hill 2003 (8): Section 6). Watson and Dinsmore taught Monticello slaves John Hemings and Lewis, among other enslaved assistants, the intricacies of joining. Hemings in particular became recognized as a skilled furniture maker and trained other slaves in the trade. Account books, letters, sketches, notes, and inventories relating to woodworking done at the Joinery and in the Monticello Mansion provide glimpses into the daily lives of the joiners (Hill 2003(8): Section 6; Hill 2003(10); Self and Stein 1998).
Excavation history, procedure and methods
In 1957, Pi-Sunyer cleared a dense layer of vegetation and soil from the extant Joinery foundation and building interior before mapping the foundation and chimney. To confirm details of wall construction, he excavated a narrow test trench along the north, east, and west walls, as well as a small test unit overlapping part of the northwest wall of the foundation. He focused less on artifact recovery than on architectural features of the structure; therefore, data from his excavations are not included in the Mulberry Row Reassessment Project.
Kelso intercepted the southwest corner of the structure as he followed evidence for a Jefferson-period fence line (FG01 and FG02) above the garden in 1979 (Kelso 1982 and 1997). The following year, he excavated an area adjacent to the building foundation, as well as a four-unit trench perpendicular to Mulberry Row and extending south into the modern garden. There he uncovered a possible Jefferson-period "warming bed" (F11), a type of planting feature, as well as some rubble and artifacts associated with the Joinery.
Kern encountered a northern segment of the Joinery foundation while conducting excavations along the south side of the Mulberry Row roadbed.
Summary of research and analysis
The Joinery site has been analytically and archaeologically revisited periodically since initial excavation in the 1950s. Recent re-cataloguing of the assemblage and related reanalysis of the site stratigraphy by the Monticello Department of Archaeology provides new insights into the history and dynamics of this site.
In 1957 Oriol Pi-Sunyer conducted an archaeological investigation of Mulberry Row with three research goals: 1) to re-locate building foundations along Mulberry Row; 2) to determine the use of each structure and; 3) to gather artifacts found in the course of excavations (Pi-Sunyer 1957 and 1963). At the Joinery, Pi-Sunyer cleared the foundation "of a blanket of soil and vegetation that covered and obscured large portions of it" (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 7) prior to his architectural analysis. To confirm details of wall construction, he excavated a narrow test trench along the north, east, and west walls, as well as a small test unit overlapping part of the northwest wall of the foundation. Artifacts from these excavations have little contextual information associated with them and are therefore not included in DAACS.
After exposing the Joinery substructure completely, Pi-Sunyer conducted a detailed architectural analysis. The foundation measured 18-by-51 feet, with walls consisting of "unfaced, or at the best crudely faced, stone coursed with little to no mortar" (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 8) and averaging about two feet in thickness. Only at the corners and near the chimney did Pi-Sunyer document the presence of mortar and faced stones. Inside the building he uncovered a concentration of flat stones centered on the north wall, which he interpreted as an entrance, an intact stone and brick firebox and chimney opposite, and a floor of packed clay. The chimney, still standing today, had a brick-lined firebox and included four cement-lined cavities that most likely supported wooden beams. Part of the south wall showed evidence of two periods of construction or repair (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 7-10). Given the location, dimensions, and other architectural features of the Joinery foundation, Pi-Sunyer identified this structure as the Joinery (Building c) recorded by Jefferson on the 1796 Mutual Assurance Plat (Pi-Sunyer 1957: 26). Finally, Pi-Sunyer described the artifacts he discovered as being few in number and non-diagnostic for the exact function of the building.
Kelso verified Pi-Sunyer's identification of the archaeologically uncovered building foundation on the west end of Mulberry Row as the Joinery (Building C) recorded by Jefferson on the 1796 Mutual Assurance Plat. Since little of the Joinery itself was left undisturbed after the Pi-Sunyer excavations, Kelso focused the majority of his work on tracing the garden fence line to the south of the Joinery and on adjoining landscape features (Kelso 1982 and Kelso 1997). Excavations on the slope between the garden and Joinery foundation revealed some rubble and artifacts associated with the Joinery. Post-excavation analysis of the Joinery proper was minimal and consisted primarily of artifact finds lists.
During the 1994 summer field season, Kern conducted excavations to the north of the Joinery foundation to locate planting holes for the trees that lined Mulberry Row during Jefferson's time. Excavations revealed several possible postholes and other unidentified features.
Martha Hill compiled a thorough review of architectural studies, archaeological excavations, documentary sources, and Thomas Jefferson Foundation research that pertained to Mulberry Row and other mountaintop outbuildings (Hill 2003). This report included summaries of historical documentation and archaeological work pertaining to the Joinery structure. Hill hypothesized that Building c may have been constructed as early as 1775 and abandoned after 1830. Furthermore, she stated that "the Joinery was probably one of the first buildings constructed by Jefferson. Some shelter for the fine work of making doors, sashes, and balusters for Monticello I would have been necessary" (Hill 2002b).
Mulberry Row Reassessment
Recent funding enabled the Monticello Department of Archaeology, as part of the Mulberry Row Reassessment Project, to re-analyze contexts and assemblages from Kelso's excavations using DAACS protocols. Reanalysis of the collections and contexts from the 1980s provides an opportunity to investigate the Joinery site beyond the limits of Pi-Sunyer's strictly architectural analysis.
Reanalysis of archaeological evidence, conducted in 2008, has provided few additional insights. Analytical problems stem from a lack of excavated features in this area as well as low artifact density within those features. The small section of builder's trench (F10) excavated by Kelso yielded no ceramics, only three wrought nails, and one machine-cut nail. Most of what we know about the Joinery continues to come from historical records and Pi-Sunyer's architectural investigation. Reanalysis demonstrates that even less is known about this area than previously thought and therefore future excavations and sampling of the Joinery site are needed.