THE GARDEN DEPENDENCY’S exact date of construction is unknown, although several characteristics point to the early 1820s. The dependency shares the same type of mortar, brick, and unique roof framing system as the smokehouse. Physical evidence and historical precedence suggest the building likely housed enslaved people and provided storage and work space. It could have been used as a laundry, food preparation and cooking area, and a place for other activities associated with the mansion and garden. By 1890, a visitor to Oatlands noted the “rows of offices and storehouses” were now “a silent ruined town.”
More than a decade later, Edith Eustis extensively renovated several of the garden buildings and removed dilapidated structures during her revitalization of the walled garden. She incorporated a laundry into the dependency with large soapstone sinks and decorative cast iron brackets. Today, Oatlands’ garden staff continues to use the dependency as work and storage space.
The Garden Dependency, c. 1904
When the Eustis family first purchased Oatlands, they began documenting improvements to their new property. Family photographs help show the transition from disrepair to comfortable country estate. In one album, this photograph was captioned, “Some planting begun by us.”
Margaret and Morton Eustis, c. 1910
While at Oatlands, the Eustis children spent much of their time outdoors, exploring the garden and traversing the same landscape that visitors see today.
Bazil Turner, c. 1930
After the Civil War, some of the formerly enslaved people stayed on as paid laborers. Once such employee, Bazil Turner, worked at Oatlands for both generations of Carters and the Eustis family. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.
The Garden Dependency, 1951
In the early 1900s, several gardeners employed at Oatlands began signing their names on the plaster walls of the garden shed, located at the east end of the building. Research revealed that some of the gardeners are descended from families formerly enslaved on the property, illustrating a strong tie between Oatlands and its surrounding community. Today, the walls display dozens of signatures and whimsical sketches as a lasting legacy of the many hardworking people who helped cultivate Oatlands’ beautiful landscape.