As Virginia Tech celebrates 150 years, the oldest structure on campus faces a bright new future
As the oldest standing structure on campus, Solitude boasts a long history with a painful past. However, under the direction of newly hired Victoria Persinger Ferguson, there is a fresh hope in reimagining the future of this historic site.
Ferguson, the new program coordinator for Solitude, is an enrolled member of the Monacan Indian Nation of Virginia. Ferguson is a graduate of Marshall University and has a background in researching science methodologies to support historical information. She has spent 25 years seeking first-person documentation and archaeological information to help explain and support theories on the daily living habits of the Eastern Siouan populations up through the early European colonization period. She has written and presented work at Virginia Tech, Washington and Lee University, Sweet Briar College, James Madison University, and at several archaeological conferences.
Ferguson appears in two PBS documentaries: “Virginia Indians: Reclaiming our Heritage” and “Pocahontas Revealed.” She is the author of the children’s book, “Dark Moon to Rising Sun,” and continues to research and write historical works, including the recently completed nonfiction book, “Fan Me with a Brick.”
Ferguson will be responsible for preserving the historic buildings and grounds, maintaining exhibitions and tours, coordinating programming in keeping with the Solitude-Fraction House mission in compliance with university regulations and the National Register of Historic Places, and ensuring compliance with usage and renovation restrictions imposed by National Register status with the assigned university building manager. She will report to Michele Deramo, associate vice provost of diversity education and engagement.
This launch coincides with Virginia Tech’s Sesquicentennial, with the Solitude and Fraction Houses opening to the public in the spring 2022.
The Solitude house was originally built in the 1840s and was then owned by the Preston family, who enslaved the Fraction, McNorton, and Saunders families on the plantation. Adjacent to the Solitude house is a smaller dwelling, dedicated in 2019 as the Fraction Family House, where those African American families lived.
The property was later purchased by the Board of Visitors of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Virginia Tech) in 1873. Over the years, it has been used for a variety of purposes and most recently was affiliated with the Appalachian Studies program. The house and its outbuildings are on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
In March 2021, the Office of the Provost assumed oversight for the Solitude and Fraction houses and designated that the Office for Inclusion and Diversity manage programming and use of the facilities.