kemper house


(Madison,VA 22727)
arcade building












The society has established a new archive to record and document the county’s school history. The four current Madison schools embody and reflect the history of education in the county during the past 50 years. During the prior 240 years, more than 100 schoolhouses may have been active.
The researchers request that community members donate copies of pictures and copies of school documents such as: report cards, promotion certificates, graduation certificates, printed graduation ceremony programs, or school books.  Interviews and oral histories will be conducted. 
Citizens and society members who wish to contribute, participate, or be more actively involved should call and leave a message, including your name and contact information, at the Arcade Museum line - (540) 948-5488.



Beginning in about 1988 Earl Estes and later Sandy Childress Stowe, Beppy White along with other members of the Historical Society, have been collecting data on gravesites in Madison County.  With the help of many Madison County citizens we have located, visited, photographed and taken GPS locations of many of the small family graves, which unfortunately are disappearing from the landscape.  We have documented some of the church and community cemeteries but have many more yet to do and many family graves to locate.  We appreciate any help from the community in locating these graves. Please call the Arcade at 540-948-5488 and leave a message for Sandy if you know of an old gravesite.  You may also email us at  

We are happy to announce that we now have a CD available for sale listing all the graves ( over 5000) that  we have located so far.  Instructions on how to use and search the database are included in the CD.  Many thanks to Mary Wright for producing this CD for us.  She has been our driving force, spending untold hours, making this possible.


The Society maintains a database of all donations. Some items not affected by changes in temperature and humidity are kept in a closet off the Research Room at the Arcade Museum.. All other items are either placed on display at the museum and the Kemper Residence or placed in acid-free containers and stored on shelves in the lower level of the Kemper Residence. The purchase of special shelving was made possible by a matching grant from the Virginia Genealogical Society. Jane Volchansky is primarily responsible for the archives.

The permanent exhibits at the Arcade include the Rapidan Railroad (which ran from Orange to Wolftown and Graves Mill area), a Civil War display, Before the Park (pictures taken by Arthur Rothstein in 1935) and many Indians artifacts. Each winter the museum closes for two months to put in several new exhibits. 

The Slave Quarters Restoration Project

Restoration of the Kemper outbuildings began in 1999 with a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  This grant allowed us to have architectural evaluation and restoration estimates for the law office and the slave quarters.  At that time the law office was being used as a county office and was in fairly good shape, although modified in its interior structure.  The slave quarters was used for storage and was in bad shape, with extensive termite damage to its logs.  A fundraising campaign was begun and money was raised from local contributions and from a grant.  The amount was insufficient to handle the difficult problems of the slave quarters and therefore was used to restore the law office.  That restoration was completed in 2003, and that small building, office to Governor Kemper and Judge McMullan, is now part of the tours of the Kemper Residence.

In 2005 interior bracing was placed in the slave quarters because of its fragile condition.  Fund raising for its restoration was initiated in 2007 with the Kemper Gala, a dinner on the lawn.  Following this the Historical Society appealed to the local, community for support and applied to private foundations for grants.  In late 2008 a grant was received from the Richard and Caroline Gwathmey Memorial Trust.  This, along with the funds raised locally, was just sufficient to restore the slave quarters, except for its chimney which had been removed several decades ago.  Joe Wayner, restoration contractor from Orange and the advisor on the law office restoration, agreed to help us again by overseeing this project.  He recommended Craig Jacobs, proprietor of Salvagewrights Ltd., as the person most knowledgeable about log structures.  Mr. Jacobs agreed to undertake the work.  Ann Miller, well-known architectural historian, and again a veteran of the law office restoration, agreed to advise us on this project as well. Due to the advanced state of damage to the logs, the restoration would require dismantling and replacement of deteriorated logs with sound ones, while retaining all usable original parts.   Because the Kemper property is under easement to the Department of Historic Resources application was made to them for permission to proceed with this restoration.  DHR gave its permission and this project has now been completed.

Mr. Jacobs with his team of Stephen Nash and Paul Crocker systematically began the dismantling.  All parts were labeled with metal tags and photographed in situ.  Siding, doors and windows were removed.  The roof, whose basic structure was sound, was lifted by forklift and placed in the parking lot of the Health Department.  The logs were then removed along with the intact floor boards, revealing that there had never been an adequate foundation to the building and that at some point it had been jacked up and the lower two courses of logs replaced.  Next Carole Nash, archaeologist with James Madison University, came with a team of archaeological volunteers, and sifted the top layers of soil in the cabin site.  Shards, pieces of metal and some early buttons were found.  Dr.Nash is evaluating these at JMU and will have them on display eventually in an exhibit at the slave quarters.  When the archaeologists were finished Brent Ryder and his cousin, Charles Ryder, built a sound foundation, using period bricks from the property and lime mortar.  The soil removed for the foundation was sifted by another archaeologist, Ray Ezell, who discovered, along with some shards and metal pieces, an early clay marble.

slave quarters reconstruction
Logs from a Madison County cabin of about the same age as the slave quarters and scheduled for demolition were used by Mr. Jacobs in reconstruction.  Once the logs were assembled and secure on the new foundation the roof was lifted back into place and the original windows, doors, siding, floor boards and moldings were replaced, supplemented, where necessary, with period material.  Volunteers from the Historical Society under the guidance of Craig Jacobs and Stephen Nash did the caulking.  The tin roof, which was in bad shape, was replaced with a more appropriate roof of cedar shakes.  The soil under the cabin and the first two courses of logs were treated with a termite preventative.

 slave quarters construction
With this phase of the restoration now complete the building will be included in the tours of the property and will house exhibits of its method of construction and of the artefacts found in and under it.

The rebuilding of the chimney of the Slave Quarters at the Kemper Residence is complete. This is the final remaining phase in the structural restoration of the Quarters. The chimney rebuilding was made possible with generous financial support from the Madison-Piedmont Chapter of Questers International.
The chimney work has been undertaken by Brent Ryder and Charles Ryder of the Madison County firm of Brent Ryder Masonry, Inc. (Ryder Masonry also undertook the construction of the building foundation and chimney foundation in 2009, prior to the rebuilding of the log walls of the Quarters). The handmade brick
for the chimney was “recycled” from the site of an early house in Spotsylvania County.
The earlier chimney on the Quarters was removed in the late 20th century due to concerns about its condition. However, a photograph of the building with its chimney in place, from Vee Dove’s book Madison County Homes, was used as a model for the restored chimney. Since the top of the chimney had deteriorated, and the interior details were not visible in the photograph, these missing elements were researched, and construction details were planned, based on common building practices used in Central Virginia during the mid and late 19th century. Joe Wayner of Orange and Ann Miller of the Madison County Historical Society Board consulted with Brent and Charles Ryder.