The next few posts are going to look back at some of the projects we’ve taken part in over the past year, so we can bring you all up to speed on what we’ve accomplished as a research center and a program. Our first post will share some of our wonderful experiences in Fredericksburg, VA this past spring.
Fredericksburg, April 2013
Back row: Professor Michael Spencer (University of Mary Washington), Alex Tarantino, Laura Proctor
Front: Jenifer Andersen (’13), Jenn Nichols (’13), Keisha Gonzalez, Gab Vicari
In February, Dr. Sheppard, Cate, myself, and another current second-year attended the National Barn Alliance conference in Fredericksburg, VA. The tour that followed the presentations was wonderful, and included a visit to a historic plantation called Sherwood Forest, about six miles outside of town.
Granted in the mid-1600s to William Ball, the land was passed down through the family until 1778. At one time, it was owned by Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington. During the Civil War, the property was a defensible position for the Union, who used the house as a hospital and reconnaissance point. In 2011, Clint Schemmer of fredericksburg.com wrote a great article discussing the site’s history, which you can find here.
Today, the property is abandoned. The acres upon acres of gorgeous farmland are home to an early 1800s brick manor house with original moldings, a family burial plot, several 1920s dairy barns, a detached kitchen, and an extant duplex slave cabin.
The early 1800s manor house at Sherwood Forest.
Detail of a second floor fireplace surround.
First floor room, rear of house. Possibly a parlor? It’s really sad to see the house’s condition.
The duplex slave cabin at Sherwood Forest is literally crumbling to the ground. We had the misfortune of disturbing a very cranky tabby cat who has taken up residence on the second floor!
The floor at the slave cabin is rotting away, but exposes really excellent details like these dovetailed joists! The exterior walls had also been filled with brick and rubble as nogging.
The land is set to be developed and some of the outbuildings torn down, so we volunteered to help Professor Michael Spencer of the University of Mary Washington and some students with documentation on site. We focused on small, easily-accomplished projects, such as door details, fireplace details, and a floor plan of the kitchen.
Heading into the kitchen!
Keisha, Laura, and Becky (holding the board) document a massive fireplace in the old kitchen.
We also got a great lesson from Professor Spencer on using TachyCAD in the field. Hopefully CHAD can acquire one of these beauties in the future. It’s a wonderful piece of technology, and we were all very appreciative of his tutorial!
Michael Spencer (University of Mary Washington) teaches some CHADsters how to use TachyCAD equipment at the dairy barns.
As one of the students who went on the April trip, I found it to be a really enriching experience. I had attended the National Barn Alliance conference with the group in February, and so had been to Sherwood Forest already. It’s a breathtakingly pleasant, bucolic, and peaceful spot, and it’ll be a shame to see the landscape filled with houses. Measured drawings are not really my cup of tea, but it was worth it to take part in generating a documentary record for a farm with so much history and beauty. I wish this could have been a larger-scale project for CHAD, but Newark is sadly a long way from Fredericksburg. It seems like there’s a diverse and fascinating historical record associated with Sherwood Forest, and I would have enjoyed working with those stories.
Looking west towards the Rappahannock River from the hill at Sherwood Forest. This land will soon be a housing development.
For interested readers, here are some more articles and blog posts about Sherwood Forest and the ongoing preservation battle surrounding this lovely and historically important site.
“Stafford’s Sherwood Forest on endangered list,” by Clint Schemmer. May 23, 2011.
“History in the balance- Sherwood Forest and its crumbling slave cabin,” by National Park Service Staff. June 11, 2010.
All photos in this post are original content belonging to Gabrielle Vicari.