One of the most frequent questions we hear about our research at Fairfield Plantation is “Are you going to rebuild the house?” This is an excellent question, and one that has us dreaming of the day that this magnificent brick manor house might stand yet again as a testament to both the Burwell family and their accomplishments in the colony, but also to commemorate the lives of the enslaved Africans and the skilled craftsmen who put much of their labor into the creation of this building. The typical answer is “that would be too expensive,” and our passion has always involved privileging our educational programs over a massive reconstruction. But what if we could have both? Have our cake and eat it, too?
From these thoughts, an idea was born of an educational program that combined excavation and conservation of this fantastic building, while incorporating the instruction of eager preservation students by some of the most skilled tradesmen in the business. Last year we offered this program through our partners at Adventures in Preservation or AiP. They have worked with us for several years on our restoration of the Edge Hill Service Station, partnering on workshops that helped restore period windows and interior plaster. Our transition to Fairfield plantation in 2013 marked the most popular Adventure yet and 12 energetic students of all ages helped us research, excavate, and conserve the brick foundations, putting at least some of the bricks back in place so that the ruins may continue to teach us about the past well into the future.
Due to increased demand, we are offering two week-long workshops this summer: August 18-22 and August 25-29. This is your chance to learn from the best, including reknowned stone carver and brick mason Ray Cannetti and historic tradesman Jason Whitehead of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Each week begins with focused training in archaeological excavation on the Fairfield manor house, where last year’s students uncovered fragments of an 18th-century lock plate and a previously unknown entrance to the cellar. The mid-week break includes instruction in colonial lime mortar production and brick laying, along with a tour of the ongoing restoration of the Jamestown church tower. The week concludes with the return to Fairfield plantation, where participants can assist with stabilization of the manor house foundation, while excavations continue to document and uncover the mysteries of this remarkable building.
The number of registrants is limited to ensure focused instruction, so please sign up soon. There are reduced rates for local participants and great, affordable accommodations for those of you coming in from out of town. Check out the AiP page for more details on the workshop and an application. This summer you could be the one to rediscover the past and help preserve it for the future!