Montpelier Archaeology Hosts Public Workshop to Rebuild 19th century Slave Cabin


On February 16-22, James Madison’s Montpelier will host a log cabin workshop where participants will work with Montpelier archaeologists and a team of restoration carpenters to reconstruct a 19th century slave cabin that was discovered in the 2010 Stable Quarter excavation. The project is part of The Montpelier Foundation’s efforts to give visitors a sense of plantation life and landscape during the Madison’s era and better portray the experiences and contributions of Montpelier’s enslaved community.

Montpelier Archaeology runs 12-14 programs per year where volunteers are paired with archaeologists to learn excavation techniques, laboratory analysis and learn about the history of Montpelier. The log cabin workshop is the first of this kind that draws together archaeological research, architectural analysis and log cabin construction techniques to recreate one of the historic buildings that were part of this early 19th century Piedmont plantation. Participants will engage with carpenter Craig Jacob and Montpelier archaeologists to learn about site history and authentic log cabin construction. Activities will include:

1. Cabin Construction - Participants will learn hewing, notching and basic cabin construction techniques.

2. Artifacts Analysis - Volunteers will examine material objects and architectural elements that were recovered from the Stable Quarter site (excavated in 2010).

3. “Construction” Tours - The workshop will include focused tours on the construction of the formal mansion and South Yard timber frames. An introduction to 18th and early 19th century timber framing will be presented both in terms of function and techniques.

4. Madison Plantation - Volunteers will learn about the history of Montpelier through tours of the several archaeological sites. These tours demonstrate how archaeology has played an integral part of discovering the log cabin site as well as the rest of Montpelier’s plantation landscape.

For information about how to participate in the log cabin workshop, please visit our website or contact

For over twenty years volunteers have come to James Madison's Montpelier to gain experience excavating archaeological sites on the property. In 2014, Montpelier archaeologists will investigate slave quarter sites in Montpelier’s wooded areas and excavate 18th and early 19th century buildings at the mansion. To learn more about upcoming programs, please refer to our website or contact Matt Reeves, Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration, at


Caroline Godfrey