Arcola Slave Quarters History

 Slavery likely began in Loudoun in the early 1720’s. Slaves lived in poor quarters, and many of the structures that housed slaves had fallen into disrepair before the end of the 19th century. Today, the Arcola slave quarters is one of the few remaining reminders of Loudoun's African American antebellum history.

The building is thought to have served as a home to slaves working on the James Lewis farm in the first half of the 1800s. The Lewis farm began when Vincent Lewis purchased the land in 1744. When he died, the farm was divided between his sons, James and Charles Lewis. The James Lewis farm prospered in the mid-1800’s but later declined. The Neal family, former slaves of the Lewis family, stilled lived on the property in 1870. The farm was sold at auction in 1885 after the family died out.

Slaves living at the Arcola slave quarters were probably active in maintaining the Little River Turnpike, the precursor of today’s route 50. During the 1800’s in Virginia, turnpikes such as the Little River Turnpike were privately maintained, often using slave labor. Charles Lewis served as a director of the Little River Turnpike Company from 1817 to 1853, while James Lewis was Superintendent of the Western portion of the Turnpike. Since the Lewis family owned a large number of slaves throughout this period, in all likelihood the residents of the Arcola slave quarters worked to keep the Little River Turnpike passable.

Today, the Arcola Slave Quarters site is located within the northwest portion of the Arcola Center project on 4.5 acres of land owned by Loudoun County. In 2006, Buchanan Partners committed to donate an additional ten acres to the slave quarters site, as well as $500,000 to help improve the site and/or structure. Loudoun County’s Department of Parks and Recreations has applied for a number of grants to aid in developing the site’s potential as a cultural "anchor" for the area. It will be a focus for heritage tourism, particularly for those interested in African-American history.