South Yard (1845-1865)
The 1837 insurance map that aided Montpelier archaeologists focus their investigations into the South Yard also showed that the 18th-century South Kitchen had been razed prior to the creation of the map. Shortly afterwards the other structures would be demolished as part of Benjamin Thornton’s changes to the house and the landscape.
Originally, archaeologists believed the stone and brick pathways in the South Yard served as the means by which enslaved domestic servants moved between the duplex-homes and smokehouses, and the mansion itself. This interpretation changed when archaeologists were excavating the Southeast Duplex-Home in 2011 as part of a broader investigation of the enslaved community at Montpelier. Overlying the stone foundation of the early-19th-century duplex-home was a brick pathway that extended from the side of the mansion, joined with a path from the well house, and then headed towards the garden.
This principle of relative stratigraphy—of defining what artifact or structural feature is older or younger than another—clearly defines the pathways as post-Madison. While initially disappointing, this did open the interpretation that the Madisons treated their social spaces differently than at other historic properties.