At the southwestern end of Mulberry Row, Monticello’s principal plantation street, are the ruins of Jefferson’s ca. 1770 joiners’ shop. The shop was used by Jefferson’s free and enslaved carpenters to produce fine architectural woodwork and furniture until Jefferson’s death in 1826. The building is also where Jefferson’s free craftsmen taught the enslaved John Hemmings to be a skilled house joiner and furniture maker.
After Jefferson died, the Joiners’ Shop fell into ruin and by the 1920s the only surviving elements were an ivy-covered chimney and foundation. It wasn’t until an archaeological investigation was undertaken in the 1950s that the ivy was cleared away to expose the chimney. In the 1960s the chimney was braced with wooden beams and metal cabling to keep it from collapsing.
As part of the larger Landscape of Slavery project, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation is exploring how to support the chimney so that the modern bracing can be removed. Prior to starting the project, University of Virginia Ph.D. candidate Edward Triplett was hired to document the chimney’s existing conditions by making a 3D model. Triplett used advanced photogrammetry software to create the model and ultimately combined over 1000 photos into an amazingly detailed 3d digital rendering of the chimney.
In addition to providing state of the art documentation for the irreplaceable chimney, the model is also being put to other good uses. Most recently the millions of dots that form the model’s “cloud” of points were used to produce measured drawings of the chimney for the structural engineer who is determining the best way to stabilize the historic chimney. In the coming months details will also be pulled from the model in order digitally reconstruct the Joiners’ Shop to its Jefferson-era appearance. The model will then be placed into a digitally recreated landscape as part of a larger project to digitally reconstruct all of the buildings built along Mulberry Row. Finally, as seen below, videos of the model are also being developed. Created with 3Ds Max, an industry leading modeling and rendering software that was kindly donated to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation by Autodesk, these animations will allow visitors to Monticello’s website to investigate and experience the Joiners’ Shop chimney for themselves.