Last updated: 3/11/2015
12104 Weyanoke Road
Charles City, VA 23030
12104 Weyanoke Road
Charles City, VA 23030
Grand Re-Opening: April 14, 2014
Open April - December, 2014; SECOND SATURDAY of each month
Harry Jaeger, Site Manager
The Archeological Society of Virginia (ASV) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the study of archaeology and providing research and education opportunities across the state. Members participate in excavations and host a variety of events designed to promote archeology. Kittiewan Plantation, a Colonial-period plantation house and associated grounds and buildings located in Charles City County, is home to the ASV.
Kittiewan Plantation, located off Route 5 east of Charles City, Virginia, is an eighteenth - nineteenth century "middling" plantation house. Built around 1770 by Dr. William Rickman, Surgeon General of the Continental Armies in Virginia, the property is featured in the upcoming AMC series "Turn". Tours highlight the manor house and its grounds, as well as an extensive collection of Americana and exhibits on Virginia archeology. Kittiewan will re-open for public tours on Saturday, April 12,2014 between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Kittiewan Plantation is an outstanding 18th century Georgian architectural gem. Has superb floor to ceiling paneling unique in a house of its size. Has at least 6,000 years of Native American prehistory. Is situated on an early 17th century Crown land grant.
Was the home of Dr. William Rickman, first Surgeon General of the United States, appointed by the Continental Congress.
Was occupied during the Civil War and has earthworks from Grant's 1864 Crossing of the James. Is the home and headquarters of the Archeological Society of Virginia.
Things to see at Kittiewan
Kittiewan has something for all ages and for all interests, provided it's old!!
The Mansion House Ground Floor has some of the finest interior paneling in the country. For a house of its size and exterior appearance, that being of a middling frame built, clapboarded farmhouse of the 18th century, the interior is unparalleled and upon seeing it for the first time, it does shock for the contrast. The Georgian paneling has had only three coats of paint since it was built. It looks a bit tatty as we haven't yet decided how to proceed. See the page about the 21st century for more details.
The Mansion House Top Floor has displays a standard 18th to 20th century set of bedrooms. Memorabilia from Wilma Cropper is also on display. The area under one window is open so that the framing can be seen. Normally this would be hidden behind walls. The interior framing and the walls are very much a part of the history of the evolution of the house where examination has shown alterations to the house that cannot be seen otherwise.
The Mansion Grounds have the remnants of a formal garden that we are investigating with a view towards restoration. The grounds also have traces of former buildings. The depression off the NE corner of the house is a former office for the owner. It was the subject of the 2010 ASV Summer Field School.
Plantations tried to be generally self-sufficient by growing their own produce in their gardens, and livestock in their fields. A decorative formal garden was also typical wherein the more rigid Georgian layout was the norm. In the garden, flowers and other blooming plants were situated and were chosen to provide a full seasonal range of blooms. The blooms were used for interior decoration. Herb gardens were also quite common, sometimes as separate mini-gardens or within the larger formal garden.
The Visitor's Center houses the ASV Headquarters with our extensive archaeological library and collections of prehistoric artifacts. These are on display in the museum along with items that Mr. Cropper accumulated in his lifetime. There is also a giftshop within.
Civil War earthworks cross the property at a diagonal several hundred yards north of the Manor compound. General U.S. Grant's Army of the Potomac had started near Fredericksburg in 1864 with a mandate from President Lincoln to end the war. Grant hammered at General R. E. Lee in a series of battles in which Lee deflected Grant from Richmond, always moving south and east.
At the Battle of Cold Harbor, Grant disengaged his entire army and moved it much farther south and east to the Weyanoke peninsula upon which Kittiewan sits. Pontoon bridges were built across the James River and the entire Army of the Potomac crossed, all without Lee having any idea where Grant was or what he was doing. His objective was to attack Petersburg.
The earthworks at Kittiewan were built in order to protect the vulnerable right flank and rear of Grants army. These earthworks spanned from Mapsico Creek on the East to Queen's Creek on the west and are mentioned in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (OR). These are very fragile earthworks and must not be walked upon or touched.
The Rickman Family Cemetery is set in the woods to the west of the entrance road several hundred yards north past the earthworks. How many graves are in the bricked in area is unknown, nor is it known if the brick walls surround all of the burials. We suspect not as depressions exist outside the walls. The first Surgeon General of the United States, William Rickman, was buried in 1783 in the cemetery which also has members of his family.
In 1982 to 1984 the ASV with the Virginia Canals and Navigations Society excavated several score canal boats and thousands of associated artifacts from the James Center in downtown Richmond. The Great Basin of the James River & Kanawha Canal was the eastern terminus for a canal that George Washington envisioned to open up the west which in that time was the Trans-Allegheny. Artifacts from this excavation are stored at Kittiewan in the barn to the east of the Manor and at other locations on the property. We have two of only three surviving Packet Boat hulls from Virginia's Canal Era. We hope to have these on display soon.
The Virginia Archeological Resource Center houses the library collection of the Archeological Society. In addition, the papers and other ephemera associated with the previous owners of Kittiewan Plantation is also available.
Kittiewan Kitchen Excavation.ASV conducts ongoing archaeological investigations at Kittiewan aimed at solving particular problems. At these events, participants learn how to lay out a grid, learn basic stratigraphic excavation, learn basic archaeological recording of features, as well as learn basic artifact processing and recording.
The events designed to investigate some aspect of Kittiewan's past.
The first such event investigated a building variously interpreted as the Kittiewan Kitchen, and as Dr. Selden's Office.
ASV has a Certification Program designed to teach basic archaeological techniques over the course of several months of training. The program is designed for avocational archaeologists who have a desire to become knowledgeable about the process of archaeology, who wish to learn archaeological techniques within the ASV Archaeological Ethics Guidelines. This program is taught by professional archaeologists and is available at several locations throughout the state. The Archeological Technician Certification Program is designed to give individuals the opportunity to obtain recognition for formal, extended training in the techniques and goals of archaeology without having to participate in an academic degree program.
Certification students are provided technical training in both the field and laboratory in conjunction with rotational lectures and workshops and required readings.
Archaeological work is typically held for two weeks during the summer and on weekends during the autumn. However, the fieldwork is only a small part of the process. Artifacts have to be washed, catalogued, analyzed, graphically displayed, interpreted and written up to finish the process. Artifacts are also only a part of the process as the plans and profiles generated by the investigations are a major part of the excavation report. Without the plans, profiles, artifact data analysis, all of which culminate in a written report of the findings with interpretation of what they mean, we wouldn't be doing archaeology. We also do museology in that we organize, catalogue, computerize and display the materials left to us by the Croppers. Volunteers are always welcome to go through those treasures.
The Mansion House is an 18th century architectural gem. The exterior belies the interior. Outside, the house is a typical one and a half story clapboarded house with enclosed end chimneys. Houses of this type survive elsewhere in Virginia. What distinguishes Kittiewan from any of the other houses is the exquisite paneling in the main floor two front rooms and the hallway. This type of paneling is found in much larger and grander structures than Kittiwan. The contrast is breathtaking. The interior has had only 3 coats of paint since it was built. The larger room to the east has the best paneling, including pilasters to set off closets and doorways (these are the fluted columns rising from floor to ceiling).
The "Second-Best" room (as they were called in the 18th century) also has paneling, but not with pilasters. The closets in this room were altered. If you look up you can see examples of earlier wallpaper. This room also has a piano that Wilma Cropper played.
The house has one surviving wing on the east. It was during roof replacement that the presence of a former west wing was discovered. The roofline showed a patched over area that was the mirror image of the eastern wing. The foundations were discovered by crawling under the back room and looking for traces in the brick bonding.
At some time before the Cropper's came, the west wing was demolished and the back room was added. Still later, a porch was enclosed and made into a kitchen by the Croppers.
The upstairs is divided into three rooms and a hall mirroring the downstair layout. The walls are plain. Here you can fully appreciate what the typical 18th century house interior was like and what Kittiwan would have been like had not the downstairs paneling been put into it
The east wing of the house was part of what is considered the back of the house and was thus less formal than the front. The interior reflects this on both floors. In fact, the bottom room appears to have been plastered throughout with no particular adornment. The back room and enclosed porch that today are what one sees to the left and right of the back door were 19th century additions. Both are rather plain and utilitarian. The back room houses display cases for Mr. Cropper's collection of objects.
No country house is complete without grounds. These are the formal space and the informal space surrounding the Mansion.
To the front of the house toward Kittiwan Creek is a small formal garden arrangement consisting of box bushes, trees, ornamental shrubs and flowers. To the visitor in the 18th and 19th centuries, this would have been the first impression view of the house. The aim was to produce a pleasing view for the visitor and for the people in the house. Two schools of thought were in play. The formalists required a symmetrical layout that essentially showed that humans controlled the environment. The naturalists (Humphrey Repton and Capability Brown) were leaders in a movement that created "entirely natural" settings.
Kittiewan has a somewhat formal front yard. It has a formal garden to the west. However, the very large trees in the wider front and side yards may have elements of a naturalistic landscape. Whereas Repton & Brown moved entire grown trees, in this country, selective thinning would accomplish the same purpose.
The formal garden to the west of the house has flowers and shrubs that bloom at various times of the year which is a normal practice then and now. A herb garden would have been part of the layout. The trees in the yard are a mix of introduced species and nut-bearing trees.
A garden to grow comestible produce was also a feature on the west side of the yard. Every household grew all that it possibly could for the table, for sale of any excess and for winter survival. This would be the standard set of vegetables, carbohydrate producers such as corn and beans, tubers such as white and sweet potatoes, turnips, and greens along with whatever else that particular family desired.
Every plantation household had a set of buildings set aside for specific functions, some set near the house while others were at a good distance from it. Some were for basics processing such as dairies, smokehouses, granaries, etc. Some were for basic animal shelter such as draft horse barns, stables, cow barns, hog houses and pens, chicken houses, etc. These tended to be set at a distance from the house depending upon the species of animal grown and the effects they produced. Hog barns and their yards were never near enough to be smelled. Chicken houses were nearby as eggs had to be gathered daily and the added benefit was that chickens eat ticks and other disease-vectoring malicious bugs. Distances varied by type of building, social mores of the time, possible defensive needs from both human and animal causes, the social standing of the owners, the financial means of the owners and other factors. Spatial archaeology is a sub-discipline of archaeology that has arisen in the last 30 years to study how these different factors relate to one another, and how they form stereotypical behavior across a social level and how topography influences each
At Kittiewan, the northwest side of the yard contained the kitchen, office, school, barns and probably house servants quarters. ASV field school excavations have revealed the foundations for the kitchen in a depression off the northeast corner of the east wing.
In the early 20th century, a shed was built to the north of the house, but set back from the formal yard space. This was used as a storage and work area by the Croppers. Mr. Cropper elected to build the visitors center directly north of the house in an open field. This is now the headquarters of the ASV and houses the ASV collections, displays and the Gift Shop.
Access: General Public, Students, Scholars, Members
Appointment required: Yes
See http://asv-archeology.org/Pub/ShopSpecial.html for a listing
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