Ten Hills Farm

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The Slave Quarters

The two-story brick and wood slave house situated several paces to the south of the Royall House mansion is considered “the only such structure in the Northern United States.” This is a compelling claim, but a questionable one, given that census reports at the time of the American Revolution counted more than 10,000 blacks held in bondage across New England. Owners of this property had little incentive to report how many people they enslaved since such workers were heavily taxed. Arguably, even the figure of 10,000 slaves in Colonial New England underestimates the total. Whether or not the Slave Quarters at the Royall House really is the only such structure still standing, the building nevertheless holds the certain distinction of being the only recognized – and memorialized – slave dwelling in the Northern U.S. Today, the Royal House Association works diligently to exhume this past by hosting lectures, readings, archeological exhibits and even theatre performances marking this aspect of the ground’s past. The great paradox is this: In a region in which “Georgian mansions are a dime a dozen,” as one prominent preservationist put it, the slave dwelling is the mansion’s biggest draw.

Today, the slave quarters house a small museum exhibition space and a caretaker’s apartment upstairs. The space is used for lectures and events. The dominant feature of this building is the expansive hearth, still blackened by more than a century of hard use.

 


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