Site Narrative: Architecture as Primary Source

Horton Grove

Home for the enslaved at Horton GroveConstructed between 1851 and 1860, Stagville's two-story, four-room timber-frame quarters are rare survivors of an unusual type of housing for the enslaved people. Throughout the South, a typical enslaved house would have been a one-room, one-story structure. Although the Horton Grove buildings had four rooms, the number of individuals housed in each room was probably about the same as elsewhere, being from five to seven individuals.

The design of the Horton Grove slave houses employed brick nogging, which not only provided insulation from the heat and cold, but also deterred rodent infestation, which could have created health problems. Family records reveal the design of these buildings was a deliberate attempt on Paul Cameron's part to provide a healthier living environment for his slaves. In other words, his architectural investment protected his human investment.

Though in need of additional work, some of the Horton Grove slave dwellings have been partially restored in recent years.

The Great Barn

Though difficult to imagine today, there were open fields surrounding the structure when the enslaved laborers first raised the barn. One could have easily seen Horton Grove just up the road, as well as the Bennehan House up on the hill.

The great barnThe barn was built during the summer of 1860 from huge timbers felled and milled on nearby plantation land. Paul Cameron oversaw the construction, but his slaves did the work. The structural members of the barn were hand hewn, while the flooring and siding were prepared at the sawmill. The barn features skillfully executed and seldom-seen complex joinery.

The barn served primarily to house mules that pulled the farming equipment and wagons on the plantation. It was a source of great pride to Paul Cameron, who wrote to his father-in-law, Thomas Ruffin, in September 1860, "I have a great wish to show you the 'best stables' ever built in Orange (at Stagville) 135 feet long covered with cypress shingles at a cost of $6 per thousand."

The barn was the last major structure built on the plantation and represented the culmination of Paul Cameron's construction efforts throughout the 1850s. It is a testament to the land's agricultural potential, the Camerons' prosperity, and the skills of the enslaved craftsmen.