Historic Structure Report (HSR)

Phase I of the Historic Structure Report (HSR) has been completed. The 81-page report was prepared by Maral S. Kalbian and Dennis J. Pogue. A copy can be downloaded from our webpage. The report established this chronology of Happy Retreat’s construction:

  • The front room of the west wing is the earliest part of the house, dating to ca.1780.
  • Both the rear room of the west wing and the east wing were built around 1785.
  • The name “Happy Retreat” first appears in a letter Charles Washington wrote to his son, George Augustine Washington, dated November 23, 1785.
  • The central portion of the house and the second stories of both wings were completed by Judge Isaac Douglass in 1842.
Happy Retreat phases of construction

Phases of Construction

This diagram shows the phases of construction of the house and the smokehouse/kitchen/privy outbuilding. Read more

Figure 21

Figure 21

The second stone structure, no longer extant, which was located east of the kitchen (HABS 1937, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/wv0090.photos.172247p/resource/).

The HSR excerpt (pp. 58-59) reproduced below deals with one building that is believed to have been slave quarters. The foundation of the building in the photo has been located by very preliminary archeology test digs. Future archeology is being planned to find artifacts to reveal further information about this building. Other photographs of this building appear in “Historic Photos” at HR1_0002.

The second stone building is known to have been located just to the east of the kitchen, which survived at least until the 1940s, when the east elevation was photographed. It was a two-bay, rectangular structure, covered with a steeply-pitched side-gable roof. It had an interior brick end chimney, along with a second, narrower brick chimney roughly centered on the roof. The walls are covered with stucco in this image, and in another photograph dating to 1937. The surfaces of the stone walls are visible at several points where the stucco had failed, however, revealing them to be squared stones of varying size laid in irregular courses. The character of the stonework is similar to the kitchen building, and thus at least suggests a similar date of construction. According to one account, the building was used as “quarters for help,” and its apparent duplex arrangement was a common plan for slave quarters throughout the region.24 The small center chimney likely served a wood stove, however, which almost certainly was a later feature, and the lack of an original heat source suggests that at least one of the rooms was used for storage or another non-domestic purpose.

Learn more about the history of Happy Retreat