Pegs, Hooks, and Shelves: Evidence of Life in the Garret



A Garret is a "top-floor or attic room, especially a small dismal one." Indeed, only a "Servants Bed," a mattress or pallet used directly on the floor valued at 1 pound ten shillings, furnished the "Middle Room" under the roof at Stenton in 1752. The listing of only a bed on the James Logan estate inventory suggests that Stenton's enslaved workers did little more than undress, sleep, and re-dress for the next day in the top of the house. Their time was entirely spent at work in service to the Logan family downstairs. Unpainted woodwork, a single window, lack of storage for personal items, and no fireplace for heat or light made for an inherently dismal and uncomfortable life in the Middle Garret. The numbers of enslaved people relegated to this middle room likely fluctuated over time. A clothes cupboard in the hall just outside the room, with eight pegs for hanging clothes, offers a sense for the numbers of enslaved people who may have occupied the unheated garret spaces.


Image above: The Middle Garret is under the roof at the front of the house. One can enter this space from the stair-hall side of the attic or the service-stair side of the attic, making it possible for those called from slumbering in this space to serve downstairs in the night without disturbing spaces downstairs unnecessarily. Notice the single dormer window and unpainted woodwork. You can see Stenton’s current Dinah exhibition and timeline related to her life, Quakers and Slavery in Pennsylvania, and the evolution of her story on the walls here. For more about Dinah, please visit www.stenton.org/Dinah



Image Captions: 1) Turned pegs in the cupboard outside the Middle Room on the service-stair side of the hall. The group of pegs to the right may have been added a bit later suggesting that the number of people using the closet may have increased. 2) The service-stair side of the garret hall, with wide, oxidized boards, pine for the walls and door panels; door framing is oak. Sound would have carried between the board walls without any plaster as insulation. 3) The bookshelf ghost in the Middle Room. Likely around the time Dinah came to labor at Stenton in service to William and Hannah Logan, after James Logan died in 1751, this leftover bookcase came to the third floor to offer the enslaved additional storage space. Designed to be supported by the chair rail and baseboard in the Blue Lodging Room downstairs, bookcase would have been rickety against the board wall. The wrought iron hook in the shelf and those in the wall may have offered tethered support as well as additional hanging space for clothes and headwear. 4) Wrought iron hook on bookshelf. 5) One of the corresponding hooks on the wall. 6) Detail of the turned pegs in the clothes closet — physical evidence of the everyday lives of the Stenton workforce.

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