After six months of excavation that included two university field schools and seven Expedition programs, most of the puzzle pieces have fallen into place, and we can now share the final outcome of our endeavors. With careful analysis, the tangled web of 50 different soil layers and 53 features yielded some interesting and significant results.
In between snow storms, the Montpelier Archaeology Department completed the Willow Gate excavations. We knew about a Madison-era gate present in this locale from a description by John H.B. Latrobe following his 1832 visit to Montpelier. He described a high red gate hung upon white posts. During Madison’s day, such gates served a practical purpose to keep animals out of the grounds. The gate also distinguished the formal environs of the mansion from the larger working planta
For the past two months there has been a flurry of activity behind Montpelier’s Visitor Center. This area hasn’t exactly been clutter-free either. Every day, visitors have seen tents, flags, and archaeologists making exciting discoveries about the Madisons’ stables.
The archaeologists have been hard at work excavating one of the Montpelier slave quarters. After a month-long field school and three expedition programs, we have a lot to show! The Stable Quarter is located between the South Yard (quarters for house slaves) and the Montpelier Visitor Center.
Our knowledge of the Stable Quarter Site (located between the visitor center and the South Yard) continues to grow in leaps and bounds. Last post, we reported we established the slave quarter we were excavating originally was a log structure with a stick and mud chimney based on the single hearth and several clay borrow pits we had located. Since that time we have made two exciting discoveries: a second hearth that has provided the dimensions and potential layout of the structure and 2) a sub-floor pit in front of the large hearth we discovered in August.
A team of curators, facilities and restoration staff, and a fine art specialist worked late into the evening hours on September 17—Constitution Day—to install thirty-four of the thirty-seven prints and engravings listed on an 1836 document entitled “Engravings in the dining room.”
Have you thought about how you will travel to Constitution Day 2012? This week in our continuing series on Montpelier’s September 22 Constitution Day celebration, we will talk about an interesting way to travel to the festivities: the Liberty Ride.
Perhaps the principle highlight of James Madison’s presidency was the aptly named War of 1812. Often referred to as “America’s Second War for Independence,” the war was the new nation’s struggle for sovereignty. Locked in a long and difficult clash with Napoleon, the British attempted to hinder the growth and prosperity of their former colony, and prevent the United States from colluding against them with the French.