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Recreation of Jefferson’s “Storehouse for Iron” to Start this Spring!

Gardiner Hallock

In the coming months visitors to Monticello will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Jefferson’s “storehouse for nailrod and other iron” recreated on Mulberry Row. Building on more than eight years of planning and over 50 years of research and archaeological investigations, the site preparation will start next week followed by reconstruction; we expect that the storehouse will be largely finished by July. The multi-use log storehouse was originally built in ca. 1792 and was part of Jefferson’s plans to make the plantation more profitable by introducing light manufacturing to Monticello.  Overtime the structure was used by Jefferson’s enslaved workers as a tinsmith shop, a dwelling, and a blacksmith shop/nailery.  The building is thought to have survived until 1828 when Jefferson’s granddaughter Cornelia Randolph records that the log buildings on Mulberry Row were “lying in little heaps of ruin.”      

The design of the recreated storehouse is based on Jefferson’s meticulous records, an archaeological investigation that uncovered a remarkably intact foundation, and our knowledge of Virginia’s 18th-century vernacular architecture.  Built from white oak logs and covered with a traditional riven-board roof, the storehouse reflects what was once a very common building type that has largely disappeared from today’s landscape.  The building will feature hand-wrought door hinges, traditional sliding sash windows, and a small forge that was used for nail making, tinning Jefferson’s copper cookware, and other small blacksmithing tasks.  The floor will be paved with bricks while the exterior the walls and roof will be covered with a traditional tar paint. 

The first step in the recreation process involves constructing a specialized foundation that will protect the surviving archaeological resources while also mimicking the original building’s Jefferson-era dry-laid stone base.  By mid-April the project will really take off and a team of traditional craftsmen will arrive on site to construct the log portion of the building.  Using the same types of axes, saws, froes, and drawknives that Jefferson’s slaves and free workmen would have used, Craig and his team will hew and rive the raw white oak logs into finished building components.  Visitors are encouraged to interact with the craftsmen, so bring your questions and come learn about the exciting new addition to Monticello’s Mulberry Row!  

The Mountaintop Project is made possible by a transformational contribution from David M. Rubenstein. Leading support was provided by Fritz and Claudine Kundrun, along with generous gifts and grants from the Sarah and Ross Perot, Jr. Foundation, the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. John H. Birdsall, Mr. and Mrs. B. Grady Durham, the Mars Family, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Charlotte Moss and Barry Friedberg, the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, the Cabell Foundation, the Garden Club of Virginia, and additional individuals, organizations, and foundations.

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