Stable (1797-1801)

Research & Collections

The 1837 insurance plat that details the positions and nature of the South Yard structures also details the approximately position of the stable some 437’ from the mansion.

In 2010, excavations at the documented position of the stable revealed artifacts consistent with equine activity—horse shoes and carriage hardware.  In addition to those, there were also examples of carpentry tools.  This offers a particularly fascinating tie to the extant documentary evidence, with James Dinsmore—Madison, Jr.’s builder for the 1809-1812 alterations to the mansion—indicating that he would repair and use the stable for a carpentry shop as the addition to the South Kitchen was not equal to the task.  The association of carpentry tools with equine-related equipment such as harness tack offers a good indication that the stable was located where the insurance plat notes.

Documentary evidence from James Madison to his overseers indicates the construction of this “principal stable” to be made out of chestnut logs.  Such structures would have left little archaeological traces.

The investigations of the Stable site also incorporated extensive metal-detector survey.  This survey revealed a substantial complex of activity that included the Stable Quarter, but also likely a number of other structures such as quarter-homes for enslaved artisans, carriage houses and other unidentified structures.  With the close association of the Craft Complex, in many ways the Stable Quarter Complex was the living, beating heart of the plantation in the early 19th century.

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