Earlier this year Alexandria's new Freedom House Museum hired me to build a model of the slave jail that was located at the corner on Duke and Payne Street. This slave jail, also called a slave pen, was used by various slave dealers for about 25 years. When the Union Army occupied Alexandria, they took over the facility forever ending its use as a slave pen. In a touch of bittersweet irony, they used it as a jail for some Confederate prisoners, as well as misbehaving Union soldiers. For a full history of the facility, please see this link.
|A period photo after the Union made extensive |
changes to the building
This was a challenging model to build both for technical and emotional reasons.
The Union Army made many changes to the building during the time of the civil war. They also took several pictures of the buildings. The museum wanted the model to depict the time when it was used as a slave dealer. But we had almost no photos from that era. Luckily we did have an extensive archeological study of the building done by Benjamin Skolnik, of the Office of Historic Alexandria. We also had the results of an historical architectural history study by Susan Pommerer of the Smith Group. They did an extensive review of many existing records. They also did a detailed measurement of the existing structure. Included in the study was a laser scan of the building, but that did not provide much direct useful information to me as the model builder. More valuable were the isometric and elevation views that Susan provided to me.
Even with those excellent resources, there were many details that we were not sure about, particularly in the backyard. We hope this model is an accurate representation of the building as it stood just before the Union Army ended slave dealing in Alexandria for good.
The model will be on display in the museum later this year.