Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center
Tobacco Heritage Trail
BELVEDERE DEVELOPMENT, ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Management Planning, Archaeological and Historical Research, Cemetery Conservation, and Commemoration of an early Community of Free African-Americans
Between 2005 and 2007 Rivanna Archaeology designed and implemented a cultural resources management plan for the proposed Belvedere development in Albemarle County, Virginia. Preliminary research indicated that a portion of the Belvedere development tract included lands historically associated with an ante-bellum community of free African-Americans known as Free State.
Following a Phase I archaeological survey of 30 acres of the property, Phase II and Phase III investigations focused on a multi-component site deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The site contained several domestic occupations ranging in date from the late 18th to early 20th centuries in addition to a large family cemetery. Archaeological investigations were accompanied by in-depth archival research and interviews with local historians, Free State descendants, and community members. GPS and GIS technology was utilized in the gathering and interpretation of field data.
Synthesis of this research has provided a detailed history of Free State beginning as a rare example of 18th century free African-American land ownership, through periods of contraction and expansion in response to the wider social forces of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In consultation with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, Albemarle County, Free State descendants and the developer, Rivanna Archaeology developed a memorandum of agreement that detailed the preservation of the cemetery as green space and public commemoration of the Free State community.
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