The Working Landscape of the Enslaved in Jefferson's Academical Village:

Investigating the Spaces for Slaves Within and Around Hotel A and Pavilion I

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Jefferson's Academical Village is comprised of the Rotunda, ten faculty Pavilions, six Hotels, and numerous student rooms.  While student and faculty life has been well documented over the past 200 years, the stories of the enslaved population who built and maintained the University, and served the students and faculty, has not been adequately acknowledged.  Based on historical records, we aim to present the stories of the enslaved who were associated with Hotel A and Pavilion I to gain a greater understanding of the daily roles of enslaved African Americans in the early years of the University of Virginia.  This research team is comprised of four graduate students in architectural history: Peter Giscombe, Erin Que, D. Neal Wright, and Ding Zhang.  Special thanks to Arin Bennett, Shayne Brandon, Lauren Massari, and Will Rourk, for their digital support, and Peter Hedlund and Matthew Gibson with Encylopedia Virginia and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities for their assistance with 360-degree photography.
The Role of Slave Labor in Building Thomas Jefferson's University
                                1825 Maverick Plan (UVA Special Collections)                                          Portion of Casimir Bohn's 1856 lithograph "View of the University
                                                                                                                                                        of Virginia," annotated to indicate Hotel A and Pavilion I
                                                                                                                                                               (UVA Special Collections)*

The story of slavery at the University of Virginia begins with its actual construction as many slaves helped erect the buildings of the Academical Village.  Documentation of names is limited but some individuals have been acknowledged in the historic record.  James Oldham, the master carpenter and joiner, owned 19 slaves at his death in 1843.  It is likely that at least one, Halley, worked on Pavilion I.[1]  Slaves were both purchased and rented.  When a slave was rented, the agreement was to provide clothing and food.[2]  The proctor was responsible for hiring the slaves and the overseer assisted with the management and food provision.  There was a small garden that produced food for the slaves but the overseer also had to obtain food from locals as well as traveling salesmen.[3]  In one instance, the overseer, John Herron, gave the slaves whisky, which was generally frowned upon by the University.[4]  In some cases, payment was offered instead of clothing: for example in 1820, Proctor Arthur Brockenbrough paid $2.25 to three slaves instead of giving them socks for the winter.[5]  During the construction of the Academical Village, workers (free or enslaved) lived in unfinished student rooms and pavilions or in a laborer’s house northeast of Hotel B.[6]  Though the documentary record is far from complete, it is clear that enslaved African Americans played a critical role in shaping the core of the University.

Hotel A - Click to Learn More              
Hotel A                                                                                                     Pavilion I   

[1] Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker Architects, Hotel A: University of Virginia, Historic Structure Report (Albany, NY: Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker Architects, 2012), 38, and Will of James Oldham, (Charlottesville City Courthouse, Will Books), Vol. 15, 461. 
[2] Catherine S. Neale, Slaves, Freedpeople and the University of Virginia (BA Thesis, University of Virginia, 2006), 29, and Philip Alexander Bruce, History of the University of Virginia 1819-1919: The Lengthened Shadow of One Man, volmue II (New York: Macmillan, 1920), 16, and Proctor’s Papers, Box 2, Folder “E[dmund] Bacon to A.S. Brockenbrough December 16, 1821.” UVA Special Collections.
[3] Neale, Slaves, 16, and Proctor’s Papers, Box 1, Folder “Receipts, 1820, July 30, 1820.” UVA Special Collections.
[4] Neale, Slaves, 16, and Proctor’s Papers, Box 1, Folder “Receipts, 1820, August 26, 1820 and September 2, 1820.” UVA Special Collections.
[5] Neale, Slaves, 16, and Proctor’s Papers, Box 1, Folder “Receipts 1820,” 16 August 1820.” UVA Special Collections.

[6] Neale, Slaves, 16-17, and Marie Frank, “It Took an Academical Village: Jefferson’s Hotels at the University of Virginia,” The Magazine of Albemarle County History, Volume 59, 2001, Albemarle County Historical Society, Edited by Frank Grizzard, Jr.

* From the Edwin M. Betts Memorial Collection of University of Virginia prints, photographs and illustrations [manuscript] 1817-1930, UVA Special Collections,