Building m (Smoke House/Dairy) & MRS 4
Building m, located on Mulberry Row, is described by Jefferson in the 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration (Jefferson: N133) as a smoke house and a dairy measuring 43.5-by-16 feet. Between 1979 and 1981, William Kelso and staff exposed a stone foundation measuring 44-by-16.5 feet in the location mapped by Jefferson. Among the interior features was a brick-lined fire box (F38), corroborating the structure’s use at one time as a smokehouse.
Documents indicate that by 1809 the south terrace wing of the Mansion had been completed. The wing contained a smokehouse and a dairy. These two activites may have been moved to the new wing at that time. The support postholes for a ca. 1809 garden paling fence (Jefferson: N225), which separated Mulberry Row from the Jefferson-family vegetable garden, cross through where Building m once stood.
DAACS-based reanalysis of the excavation records and artifacts indicates that after Building m's demise, a dwelling, now identified as Mulberry Row Structure (MRS) 4, was built on the site. Archaeological evidence for MRS 4 consists of a brick paving (F39), which served as a floor in front of the building's hearth (F22).
The earliest known reference to a Monticello smokehouse and dairy occurs in a memorandum from Jefferson to his friend and farm manager, Nicholas Lewis, ca. November 7, 1790:
"Two meat-houses to be made, about the same size each, 12 feet apart and a cover over the whole: one of them for me, the other for Mr. Randolph and the passage between, for their dairy. All these to be of logs covered with clapboards," (Oberg and Looney 2008:29)
Referring this time specifically to a structure on Mulberry Row, Jefferson (Jefferson:N133) identifed Building m in a 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration as:
"a house 43 1/2 f. by 16. f. of wood, the floors of earth, used as a smoke house for meat, and a dairy,"
If the two above references can be taken as describing the same structure, then Building m was constructed sometime between late 1790 and 1796.
As Martha Hill notes, however, there "must have been" a smokehouse and dairy on the moutaintop before the construction of Building m. An earlier smokehouse and dairy could have been located in the yard near the South Pavilion where the Monticello I kitchen was located, but it would have been demolished while grading the hillside in preparation for construction of the south terrace wing associated with the second phase of the Jefferson Mansion (Hill 2002b).
Two additional references, one to a smoke house and the other to a dairy, are ambiguous with respect to location. Martha Jefferson Randolph, in a letter to Jefferson in January of 1791, described visiting:
"the kitchen smoke house and fowls when the weather permits and according to your desire saw the meat cut out," (Oberg and Looney 2008:499)
and, four months later, Jefferson instructed Mary Jefferson:
"to manage the kitchen, the dairy, the garden, and other appendages of the household," (Oberg and Looney 2008:462)
Jefferson's 1809 mountaintop plat (Jefferson:N225) does not show any building on the site of Building m but does show a fenceline where Building m previously stood, thereby dating the destruction of the structure to before 1809. This sequence is corroborated by the archaeology, described below.
Excavation history, procedures and methods
Although Pi-Sunyer excavated two parallel trenches across the area where Building m had been located, he did not detect the stone foundation Kelso would later uncover. Judging from field photographs, such as the one shown here, Pi-Sunyer's trenches appear too shallow to have reached the top of Building m's stone foundation.
In 1979, Kelso uncovered the greenstone foundation of Building m, that Pi-Sunyer's initial excavations missed, during the excavation of postholes (e.g., F12) associated with an 1809 paling fence that separated Mulberry Row from the Jefferson family vegetable garden. Four of these 10-by-4 foot quadrats excavated in 1979 cross the Building m site. During the same excavation campaing, additional quadrats were placed north and south of the fence line (see Site Images for quadrat layouts). Excavation at this location resumed the following year using the Wheeler-box method of digging 8-by-8 foot quadrats separated by unexcavated 2-by-8 foot balks. As work progressed, some balks were removed whereas others were never excavated. In some areas of the site, quadrat size deviated from the standard just noted. For example, along the northern edge, a series of quadrats measuring 8-by-4 feet was excavated, leaving 2-by-4 foot balks, some of which also were eventually excavated.
By the 1981 season, the entire stone foundation had been exposed. The stone foundation measured approximately 44-by-16.5 feet and was wider and deeper on the garden-side of the structure, though some of the south wall had eroded down slope (Kelso 1982:49). Kelso noted that the six-inch topsoil at the site of Building m was partially disturbed by Pi-Sunyer's excavations in 1957 (Kelso 1982:50).
In December 1993, Sue Kern undertook excavations to find the mulberry trees that Jefferson had planted along Mulberry Row. She began by excavating a 5-by-4 foot quadrat north of the northeast corner of Building m, which revealed one planting hole (F36). Two additional quadrats of the same size north of Building m were excavated on 25-foot intervals, leading to the identification of two other tree plantings (F35 and F 24). None of these units crossed the foundation of Building m.
Summary of research and analysis
Kelso (1982:50) linked the following features with the Smokehouse-Dairy:
- a 5-by-6 foot brick paving at the north corner (F39)
- a 3-by-3 foot 9 inch dry-laid brick box slightly off-center from the foundation on the east end (F38)
- an ash filled pit centered inside the structure on the west end (F16)
Ambiguity in the documentary and archaeological records as to how the structure was internally partitioned led to speculation about the asymmetrical division of space. Kelso concluded that the western room measured 16-by-16 feet and was used for smoking meats whereas the remaining 16-by-28 feet of space in the eastern end was used for dairying. The presence of domestic artifacts suggested to Kelso that the dairying side of the structure also served as a slave dwelling.
Building m was given a construction TPQ of either 1769 due to the presence of creamware on the original topsoil or possibly 1781 in light of the silver spanish real in the "south corner stones" (Kelso 1982:51). The presence of ironstone suggested a destruction after 1813. MCDs calculated for different "occupation layers" suggested to Kelso a construction date of 1771, a median occupation date of 1785, and a destruction date of 1805 (Kelso 1982:51).
Pointing to Jefferson's own description, Martha Hill (2002a, 2002b) reasserted a more parsimonious internal arrangement: two equally sized rooms used to smoke meat separated by a central passage containing the dairying operation.
Re-examination of the archaeological and documentary evidence fits with Hill’s hypothesis that Building m consisted of two room used for smoking meats, separated by a central passageway used for dairying activities (Jefferson:N133; Oberg and Looney 2008:29). This structure, built sometime between 1791 and 1796, was removed by 1809.
Further analysis of the artifacts and records for the Mulberry Row Reassessment has identified a second structure in this location, designated as MRS 4. Careful examination of the excavation photographs shows the brick paving (F39) crosses Building m’s stone foundation and is separated from the stone by a layer of sediment. The trapezoidal plan of the paving supports the hypothesis that it served as a floor in front of a fireplace, with the shorter side on the east facing the fireplace. Further corroboration for the hearth hypothesis comes from evidence of burning (F22) just to the east of the brick paving's short side. The new interpretation is that MRS 4 post-dates Building m but is likely contemporary with the 1809 Stone House to the east and the 1809 paling fence to the south.