Canada Community at UVA

I’ve posted in the past about the Kitty Foster site at UVA.

Recently, the University of Virginia dedicated a new park at the former site of Catherine Foster’s house and family burial ground.  Foster’s home was part of an antebellum community adjacent to the University named “Canada,” probably a reference to the Free Black population who lived there (slaves were emancipated in 1843 in Canada). Catherine “Kitty” Foster was a Free Black woman who purchased land for a house in 1833. Kitty was born around 1790 and later worked as a laundress for UVA faculty and students. When she died in 1863, the land was subdivided among her descendants and remained in the family until about 1906 when the property was sold to white developers.

Archaeological investigations at the house site have uncovered ceramic sherds, glass shards, animal bones, nails, and a cobblestone path that relate to the everyday activities conducted here. Rivanna Archaeological Services produced a comprehensive report on these findings and the historical context of the Foster family in a report titled, “The Foster Family-Venable Lane Site: Report of Archaeological Investigations.”

In 1993 a coffin was located at the site during the construction of a parking lot.

After an initial archaeological survey in the 1990s, Rivanna Archaeological Services returned in 2002 and 2005 (read more about their findings in 2005) to locate additional unmarked graves, totaling 32 individuals (read the story here). Because of their proximity to the house, these remains are believed to be relatives of Kitty Foster. After locating the burials, the human remains were recovered and left undisturbed (the photo illustrates a re-landscaping effort to indicate the location of the unmarked burials).

The more recent dedication ceremony included a newly constructed “shadow catcher” designed by Walter Hood and Cheryl Barton. This metal structure casts a shadow over the location of the cemetery and symbolizes an abstract outline of the house and its chimney.

For more information about the dedication ceremony, click here.

To read an article about the planned site in The C-ville, click here.

To here an interview with Dr. Gertrude Fraser (UVA vice provost for faculty recruitment and retention ) about the Kitty Foster Site, click here.

The site is listed on the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities African American Heritage website.