Mulberry Row Structure 2 (MRS 2) was discovered during excavations led by Dr. William Kelso while he searched for the garden gate between Building o and Building E on Mulberry Row. Excavated primarily during the 1979, 1980, and 1982 field seasons, the site consists of a 6-by-6 foot cellar (F09), post holes with ambiguous association, post holes from the two eras of garden fence line (FG01, FG02), the remains of modern stiars from Mulberry Row down to the garden, numerous modern utility trenchs, and the warming bed (F24) at the north end of the garden terrace.
Current analysis suggests MRS 2 may have been occupied during the 1780s as a dwelling for enslaved or free workers.
The only documentary suggestion that a building may have been located on the site of MRS 2 is found on Jefferson's c.1776-78 speculative plan for Mulberry Row, which shows a structure with two non-communicating rooms separated by an H-shape fireplace. (Jefferson: N87). One room is labeled "Smith" and the other "mason" apparently designating the callings of their imagined occupants, who were presumably free-white workmen. Without additional architectural evidence, MRS 2 cannot be definitively linked to the "smith mason's" structure.
MRS 2 is not pictured on Jefferson's 1796 insurance plat, and as this plat seems to have been extremely thorough, including buildings, privies and even coal piles that were not insured, the absence of MRS 2 suggests that it did not exist at that time (Jefferson: N133).
Excavation history, procedure and methods
MRS 2 was identified during the 1980 season of Mulberry Row excavations led by Dr. William Kelso. These excavations, focused on the location of the gate in the wooden fence that surrounded Jeffersons' terraced vegetable garden after its expansion in 1809. Several 10-by-10-foot test units (102, 220, 221, 222, 223, 243) were extended from the 1979 fence line excavations south along the stairs to the garden and north towards Mulberry Row in 2 roughly 5-by-5-foot excavation units (241, 242). These latter two test units included the east edge of the MRS 2 cellar.
In 1982, during excavation of adjacent Building o, six more test units (571, 572, 573, 576, 577, 578) were dug to the west along Mulberry Row according to the Wheeler Box method: a grid of 10-by-10-foot test units with 2-foot balks. As work proceeded, removal of the balks and extension of the site resulted in the excavation of quadrats varying in size from 2-by-2-feet to 8-by-8 feet. These test units uncovered the rest of the cellar, two lines of posts running parallel to Mulberry Row (FG01 and FG02), and numerous additional post holes.
Recovery of artifacts in all excavation units employed a method of careful troweling without the use of screens. Some lapses in stratigraphic control occurred. Notably, a portion of the contents of the large cellar were removed in layers (e.g., 583AA, 583AB, 583AC) while the rest were excavated as a single deposit (e.g., 242J and 241I). Although excavators recorded opening and closing elevations for most quadrats, these measurements are not related to a known, fixed datum point.
There was significant modern intrusion to the MRS 2 site. One large utility trench (F01) was placed right in the middle of the stairs from Mulberry Row to the Garden, and three other utility trenches (F06, F08, and F10) cut through other sections of the site (Kelso 1984: 21).
Summary of research and analysis
MRS 2 was likely used as a dwelling, not as a workshop or storage building (Clites & McCray 2010). Ceramic analysis indicates MRS 2 was occupied during the 1780s, and its absence on the 1796 insurance plat suggests the building was gone by that time.
However, the occupants of MRS 2 remain a mystery. The location of MRS 2 on the eastern half of Mulberry Row suggests the occupants, like those nearby, worked either in or on the construction of the mansion.