Saturday, March 22, 2014
The group of James Madison University students scouted the floor in the entry room of the White House, separating small rocks and limestone chinking, bits of wood and carefully setting aside anything that appeared like it might have archeological value. They were preparing for a day of hands-on learning in historic preservation by removing the sediment and debris that had been deposited in the interior of the home during Hurricane Fran (1996).
The field trip had been arranged by Dr. Michael Douma, professor of history at JMU and, during the day, he encouraged the students to observe the details of the house and develop theories of how and why the architecture had changed through the centuries. “Notice on the southeastern side how much thicker the limestone wash is compared to the northwest side of the house. This is the only side with paint indicating it was the front of the house and the side most seen – the Kauffmans wanted it to be the most presentable.” He pointed to the area just over the doorway into the kuche (kitchen) and asked the students to compare it with the door into the stube (parlor).
Martin Kauffman II constructed the White House in 1760 as a residence and Mennonite meeting place. In January, we received notice that the house and secondary buildings encompassing 14 acres was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In June, JMU professor, Dr. Carole Nash, and the Archeological Society of Virginia plans to return to the White House and conduct a follow up archeological dig from their first dig that occurred in June 2012.
The students worked through the morning and were able to remove about 50 buckets of sediment from the floor, revealing floor boards which had been placed in the early 1800s. This likely would have been when the Brubakers purchased the property from the Kauffmans and painted the federal colors in the parlor. Today, the robin’s egg blue, pink and yellow can still be seen on the walls.
Dr. Douma noticed the emblem on two of the door locks and determined they were from England dated 1830-1844.
It is believed that the last time anyone lived in the house was in the 1940s when two young men who worked on the bridge across the Shenandoah River stayed there. Remarkably, it remains in about the same condition and configuration as when it was first constructed.
We look forward to working with our partners to preserve and restore the White House and use it as a way to understand prehistoric life and European settlement on the early frontier of the Shenandoah Valley.