Wells & Water (1797-1801)

Research & Collections

One common question asked of the archaeologists was where the Madisons got their water.  There are a number of answers to this question.

Archaeologically, what is likely an 18th-century well has been identified on the south side of the mansion.  Although not at present excavated, this would have served the 18th-century mansion until the expansion of the mansion in the early 19th century required the excavation of a new well at its present location.  

The current “Well House” on the south of the mansion, decorated by the duPonts with a trellis structure, is likely a 19th-century well.  Although pathways that lead from the well-house are post-Madison, dating to the Thornton occupation, the well itself is likely of Madison date.

Perhaps of greater interest, however, was a wooden pipe trench that Madison installed through the South Yard.  Fed by a spring house in the garden, these wooden pipes carried water to an unknown structure in the south-west yard of the mansion.  Although the destination of the pipe trench identified in the South Yard has not yet been established, a common destination would be a dairy where the constant supply of cool water would have been vital to keeping milk fresh.

Iron collar for a wooden pipe pictured here at the bottom of the water pipe trench.

Photograph of exposed well feature (outlined with dotted line).  Note that the soil color within the dotted line is darker than the surrounding red-clay subsoil.