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Painting of Farmington Plantation House in 1820.


Site ID: 15Jf574

Plantation; Slave House
Kentucky Archaeological Survey
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​​​​​Archaeologists investigated the remains of an early to mid-nineteenth-century slave house at Farmington Plantation, a historic house museum in Louisville.  The plantation was established by wealthy landowner John Speed in 1810.  

They excavated a slave house, in addition to the remains of a kitchen and icehouse.  Some of the more than 50 enslaved individuals who worked on Speed's 500-acre hemp plantation would have lived in this house.  The archaeological remains of the slave house provided researchers with a glimpse into the housing and living conditions of the enslaved people who worked on the plantation.​​

Excavation of the stone hearth and chimney foundation of the slave house.


​The archaeological remains associated with the Farmington slave house consisted of a stone foundation, a large hearth, postholes, a drip line, and a sub-floor storage pit/cellar within the structure​. Based on the exposed remains of the structure, investigators determined that it was a small building (16 x 16 feet in size) that had a porch. Based on the recovered nails and window glass, and a large amount of plaster, the slave house was a wood frame structure with plaster walls, a wood shake roof, wood plank floor, and glazed windows.

Ceram​ics recovered from the site indicated that the Speeds passed down a variety of dishes, including some expensive types, to the enslaved.  

Other artifacts, such as a blue glass bead and a silver Mexican coin scratched with an “X” mark, likely held symbolic meaning for the enslaved people who lived at Farmington. Those objects were often stored in below-ground storage pits/cellars and kept out of sight of the plantation's overseers. The recovery of similar objects from other plantation sites in Louisville and elsewhere in Kentucky suggested that those enslaved at Farmington were part of a broader community of enslaved people.​

Illustration of a 1775 Mexican Real with “X”-marked scratches.

What's Cool?

Reconstruction of a Slave House​

Based on the archaeological remains documented at Farmington, researchers at the University of Cincinnati​ Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeologi​​cal Sites (CHERHAS) created a digital reconstruction of the Farmington slave house. Although its size and basic construction is likely typical of most slave houses, the Farmington house appears to have had some atypical amenities. These included a large well-constructed stone hearth and chimney, and plastered walls.  

These findings, along with historical accounts, suggested to researchers that this building may have been built in 1810 for the Speed family, who probably lived there while their plantation house was being constructed.  When the Speeds​ moved into the main house, they may have converted the cabin to a slave house.  Other slave houses on the plantation were likely of similar size, but were not as well constructed.

Digital reconstruction of the Farmington slave house.

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