In 2005, Hampden-Sydney College purchased a 252-acre tract of the old Slate Hill Plantation, located about 2 miles south of the College campus. It was at Slate Hill, then the home of Nathanial Venable, Sr., that a group of men of the Hanover Presbytery met in the first week of February 1775 to establish an academy to educate young men. This academy was soon named Hampden-Sydney College. Nathaniel Venable became a founding trustee of the college and the family has been associated with Hampden-Sydney ever since as trustees, benefactors, faculty, students, and recently, as president in the person of General Samuel V. Wilson, a direct descendent of Nathaniel Venable.
Moving “The Birthplace” to Hampden-Sydney College in 1944. The Slate Hill Plantation house is located in the grove of trees to the right rear.
The Slate Hill Plantation house (shown above) was built by Nathaniel Venable in 1756. The small building on the left is Venable's office where the meeting to form Hampden-Sydney College was held in February 1775. The office was moved to the College campus in 1944 where it is memorialized as "The Birthplace," and the Venable house at Slate Hill was dismantled and removed in the 1970s.
Today, Hampden-Sydney students, led by Dr. Charles Pearson, are working to reconstruct the historic landscape of Slate Hill Plantation during the May Term class, Beneath This Hill Historical Archaeology Class in historical archaeology. This work has included identifying the locations and types of buildings that once existed on the property. Students rely on primary documents such as original deeds, wills, probate inventories, and photographs, as well as oral histories and archaeology.
Nathanial Venable's office, circa 1756, now resides on Hampden-Sydney's campus where it is memorialized as "The Birthplace."
In its May 2011 newsletter, the Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum of Hampden-Sydney College published an article about the reconstruction of the 18th- and 19th-century landscapes at Slate Hill Plantation, entitled "Slate Hill Unearthed." The information in this article comes from the labels and panel text of an exhibit that recently closed at the Atkinson Museum, Beneath This Hill: Historical Archaeology at Slate Hill Plantation, Birthplace of Hampden-Sydney College.