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Fraction House
Solitude House

History of the Solitude and Fraction Houses


The Virginia Tech Blacksburg campus is located on the land of the Monacan and Tutelo peoples.  This land was acquired through the Morrill Act of 1862, the legislation responsible for the creation of the land grant system, as well as the displacement of Indigenous people whose land was seized for this purpose.

Solitude is the oldest structure still standing on the Virginia Tech Blacksburg campus.  Its initial construction began in 1802 as a log cabin structure. The house was expanded in 1851 by Col. Robert Preston, who received the estate from his father, Virginia Governor James P. Preston. The frame house was restored in 2011 to its mid-to-late 19th century appearance exemplifying Greek Revival architecture.  The son of Virginia governor James P. Preston and grandson of William and Susanna Preston, founders of neighboring Smithfield Plantation, Robert Taylor Preston served as a Justice of the Peace in Montgomery County as well as in the local militia before the Civil War broke out in 1861. After the war, Preston sold Solitude to the Commonwealth of Virginia to establish the new Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1872.

A log outbuilding adjacent to Solitude was identified through in-depth architectural analysis as the dwelling for enslaved families who worked on the Solitude estate.  Historical records show that the McNorton, Saunders, and Fraction families all lived there at one time or another, with the Fractions, whose ethnic origin was Yoruba in Nigeria, being the most numerous. On April 1, 2019 the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors acknowledged by resolution the outbuilding as the Fraction Family House.

Solitude is on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places as of 1989.

As part of its sesquicentennial celebration in 2021-22, the university recognized that it had a unique opportunity to reflect on its history, which has been closely associated with the history of Virginia, the history of the South, and the history of America. The Solitude-Fraction site, situated on the edge of the campus Duck Pond on land taken from the Monacan and Tutelo peoples, represents both a place and a space for recognizing and acknowledging the full history of Virginia Tech in the context of today and its strategic vision for the future.

The mission of the Solitude and Fraction Houses is to provide a space for inquiry and discovery focused on equity, beginning with the unfinished conversations around Virginia Tech’s own history.

The purpose of the space is reimagined as a site for curating, displaying, preserving, and interpreting artifacts of the lives impacted by this tri-racial zone; as well as a site for gathering, learning, making, storytelling, and celebrating remarkable events.

Victoria Ferguson

Director

Jamal Ross

Jamal Ross, VT'23

Student Historical Interpreter and Assistant Coordinator for Events