A Mid-19th Century Duplex. A 16 x 32 foot cabin sits under a walnut tree some 200 feet directly east of Wilton House. This board and batten structure has variously been described over time as the kitchen and the slave quarter. It quite likely served both purposes simultaneously, and perhaps as a laundry as well. But if it was a slave dwelling, it was so only for a relatively short time in the view of one knowledgeable architectural historian, who dated the structure to sometime in the mid-19th century. In that regard, the cabin might reflect a trend in the first half of the 19th century toward more substantial and better appointed slave housing. This cabin, for example, was a duplex structure with separate entrances for each of its two rooms. It had walls of 4-foot high wainscoting with plaster above and on the ceilings. Each room had two glazed, four-over-four windows and a substantial fireplace.
A 20th Century Auto Repair Shop. The structure has remained largely intact since its construction in, let’s say, the 1840’s. Chimneys at either end of the cabin, however, were lost over time, and may well have been taken down intentionally. Thus, apparently to adapt the building for use as a garage or car repair shop early in the 20th century, a large opening was created where the south chimney stood and most of the interior wall dividing the cabin into two rooms was removed. Extensive stains on the wood floor appear to confirm oral history of the presence here of oil-dripping automobiles.
And Now, 21st Century Questions. Preservation work on the cabin began in late 2013 and continues. Two end chimneys are being rebuilt, and soon the structure will have the look and feel it did one hundred and fifty years ago. That, in turn, raises anew the questions this building poses. Was this a slave quarter at its outset? If so, how many slaves lived here, and under what conditions? Was this also a kitchen for the main house? A laundry? And after emancipation, did freed slaves continue to live here, and serve the main house, or work as field hands or tenant farmers? How best should this structure be used today, and how furnished?