South Yard (1801-1817)

Research & Collections

Although the South Yard was utilized as a service complex in the 18th and 19th centuries, Madison’s reconfiguration of the mansion was also mirrored in the South Yard.  Identified on a fire insurance map from 1837, the South Yard was comprised of three duplex-homes—or what are referred to as “Dwelling House for Servants”—and two smoke houses.  The South Kitchen, built in the mid-18th century is curiously absent, indicating that it was demolished sometime before 1837.

Archaeological investigations have been performed on the Southeast and Southwest Duplex-Homes, as well as preliminary investigations of the eastern smoke house.  These excavations revealed a series of stone and brick foundations on the two duplex-home structures that confirmed their size at 16 feet by 32 feet, or two rooms of 16 feet by 16 feet.  Each structure had a central chimney base, one of which was a classic Rumsford fireplace that provides definitive dating evidence for the South Yard structures—the only other Rumsford fireplace is seen in the wings of the mansion added in 1809-1812. We have used this evidence to recreate the timber frames of these structures in the South Yard today.

The archaeological excavations also revealed evidence for pipes that were used to transport water to an unknown structure, perhaps a dairy, beyond the South Yard, and of a roasting pit used for preparing barbeque.

Yet the excavations were not just about buildings, water pipes or roasting pit, but the artifacts that would reveal more about the everyday lives of the enslaved domestic servants that lived and worked in the South Yard and the mansion.

Staff archaeologist Kira Runkle excavates the barbecue trench in the South Yard. Notice the reddened clay edges along the right side of the trench. Fires being built within the trench scorched the clay and transformed them into a brick-like consistency.

Overhead shot of excavations in the South Yard showing the two duplex structures fully revealed. Notice post holes for possible porch associated with duplex with brick chimney base.—December 2011.