Fairfield Foundation Uncovers History at Namesake Plantation During Adventures In Preservation Workshop

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Ten people attended the two-week program, excavating and uncovering part of Fairfield’s manor house foundation. Upcoming public programs include dig days at Fairfield Plantation on Sept. 13 and Oct. 18.

The Fairfield Foundation is pleased to announce that following the excavation and detailed logging of hundreds of pounds of brick and mortar at Gloucester, Va.’s Fairfield Plantation, it has uncovered new details about how people lived there centuries ago. All this because of its latest community event to promote hands on archaeology, preservation and education – Adventures in Preservation workshops.

For two weeks in late August, 10 people gathered at the Fairfield Foundation’s namesake plantation, partnering with Adventures in Preservation, to learn how to excavate, document and stabilize the manor house ruins of Fairfield.

Previous events the Fairfield Foundation held with Adventures in Preservation include a window reglazing workshop in 2011, and a plaster workshop in 2012, both of which helped restore and repair original architectural elements at the foundation’s headquarters on Gloucester’s Main Street, the Center for Archaeology, Preservation and Education (CAPE).

“Just as with other Adventures in Preservation workshops, experts instructed the participants and there was constant hands-on work to drive the lessons home,” said Fairfield Foundation Co-Director, Thane Harpole. “Our team supervised the archaeology, but we also had the great Ray Cannetti (historic mason and stone cutter), Jason Whitehead and Bill Neff (Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades), and Matt Webster (Colonial Williamsburg’s Curator of Architectural Collections) on hand to handle assessing the Fairfield manor house ruin and instruct participants in the arts of lime mortar preparation, brick laying, and repairing sections of the brick foundation.”

Carefully removing the layers around the 17th-century foundations of Fairfield allowed the team to find decorative bricks and distinctive artifacts that tell more stories about the building and the people who lived there centuries ago. Among the items uncovered were molded water table bricks, which help distinguish the cellar level from the first floor; ceramic door knobs; and the base to a brick pier for the east porch.

“We’ve been waiting for a decade to see whether any of this porch structure remained and luckily the lowest course of brick is still in the ground,” Harpole said. “The porch appears in several of the surviving photos of Fairfield taken in the 1880s and 90s, but this discovery finally allows us to measure the porch and figure out when it was added and what entrance preceded it.”

Over the two-week period, hundreds of pounds of brick and mortar were removed and carefully recorded.

By far, the most important lesson behind the workshop was “the interconnection between these things we love: archaeology, preservation and education,” added Fairfield Foundation Co-Director Dr. Dave Brown.

“We should not dig unless we have a plan in place to preserve what we discover. At the same time, we often need archaeology to precede the stabilization of historic buildings, so that we do not inadvertently destroy a building’s history while we are trying to save it. And most important of all, we must involve the public and share with them the discoveries. These lessons from the past benefit us all, but only if we make them accessible to everyone.”

The next Adventures in Preservation workshop will take place in 2015. However, the Fairfield Foundation will host another public dig day at the plantation on Sept. 13 of this year. Learn more and register online at http://www.fairfieldfoundation.org.

Become a member of the Fairfield Foundation. All members receive a triennial newsletter highlighting the foundation’s various activities, along with updates of recent finds and upcoming events.

Memberships are welcome at any level, from donating volunteer hours to corporate sponsorships.

Donate online at http://www.fairfieldfoundation.org or send a check to P.O. Box 157, White Marsh, Va. 23183.

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Stephanie Heinatz
Consociate Media
since: 08/2012
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