» » Kitchens, Smokehouses, and Privies: Outbuildings and the Architecture of Daily Life in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic

Download Kitchens, Smokehouses, and Privies: Outbuildings and the Architecture of Daily Life in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic epub

by Michael Olmert

In Kitchens, Smokehouses, and Privies, Michael Olmert takes us into the eighteenth-century backyards of colonial America. He explores the many small outbuildings that can still be found at obscure rural farmsteads throughout the Tidewater and greater mid-Atlantic, in towns like Williamsburg and Annapolis, and at elite plantations such as Mount Vernon and Monticello.

These structures were designed to support the performance of a single task: cooking food; washing clothes; smoking meat; storing last winter's ice; or keeping milk, cheese, and cream fresh. Privies and small offices are also addressed, as is the dovecote, in which doves were raised for their eggs, squab meat, feathers, and fertilizer. Often, these little buildings were clustered in such a way as to resemble a small village, knit together by similar design details and building materials: they were all constructed in weatherboards or in brick, for instance, or were arranged in a single file or positioned at the four corners of the yard.

In this appealing book, featuring nearly a hundred crisp black-and-white photographs, Olmert explains how these well-made buildings actually functioned. He is riveted by the history of outbuildings: their architecture, patterns of use, folklore, and even their literary presence. In two appendixes he also considers octagonal and hexagonal structures, which had special significance, both doctrinal and cultural, in early America.

Archaeologists and historians still have many questions about the design and function of outbuildings-questions that are often difficult to answer because of the ephemeral nature of these structures; they were not documented-any more than laundry rooms and storage units inspire rhapsodies today. Olmert's book, deeply grounded in scholarship, eminently readable, and profusely illustrated, takes these buildings seriously and gives them the attention they deserve.

Download Kitchens, Smokehouses, and Privies: Outbuildings and the Architecture of Daily Life in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic epub
ISBN: 0801447917
ISBN13: 978-0801447914
Category: History
Subcategory: Americas
Author: Michael Olmert
Language: English
Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (April 10, 2009)
Pages: 304 pages
ePUB size: 1774 kb
FB2 size: 1616 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 128
Other Formats: docx lrf doc txt

Of the 101 illustrations, 24 are of reconstructions or fanciful restorations. An additional 19 are stock/poster shots (i.e. Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Monticello) or tenuously connected historical engravings (i.e. Dürer's St. Jerome in his study; Jean-Baptist Greuze, The Laundress.) Thirty-five are of the restoration at Colonial Williamsburg. Eighteen are of European origin.

Of the 101 illustrations, only four are documentary photos of unrestored interiors: the laundry at Green Hill, the privy at Bowman's Folly, the privy at Westover, and the dovecote at Shirley.

Some of the material is re-cycled from Colonial Williamsburg magazine; the entire book is written in the airy style that characterizes that sort of popular lightweight periodical.

Although Olmert discusses laundering at some length, he skirts such a basic question as what exactly was a washtub like (wood staves or copper?). There is much discussion also about the unpleasantness of slave life and chamber pots and privies. Nevertheless, the question of who went where and where the pots were emptied is largely avoided. Although Olmert suggests (p. 125) that pots were carried from the house to the privy by slaves, absent documentation it does not seem likely that slaves were encouraged to carry out their messy work inside a gentry-finished privy. The negative evidence suggests that Olmert has very little experience with his topic beyond the fairy-tale restoration at Williamsburg.

The reproduction level of the photographs is very poor, many of them dark and murky. They appear to lack any manipulation of the images in the modern electronic darkroom, to the extent that they are seldom helpful.

Anyone interested in American 19C folkways is probably already familiar with the much better researched work of John Michael Vlach. Architectural historians stand in awe of Carl Lousnbury's Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape. In addition to those works, a few minutes of research in the online HABS collection of the Library of Congress will yield much more interesting and accurate material than Olmert's book.
Tyler Is Not Here
Although I apreciate having the many photos of these outbuildings and drawings pulled together in this one book, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping for a more in depth orginal study. It appears to be mostly a summary of the work of other scholars, which is a laudable task, but I find it exceedingly hard to trace the information presented back to the original sources, which is what many of us would like to find and cite. Also, although the format is very attractive, and gives the appearance on line of a large coffee table book, be aware that it is actually only about 7" by 8" in size.

Real footnotes would make this volume much better and intellectually transparent. Instead, at the end of each chapter, he just has a "Notes and Further Reading" section.
I picked this book up on suggestion of one of my favorite journals, "Gastronomica". From a foodie's perspective, it has invaluable historical information about the laborious processes involved in food production before todays mass marketing. It made me value the lessons learned from good architecture and thousands of years of trial and error.
An Interesting read. Great for preservationists.
Excellent topical study of Old Dependancies. While it's nearly impossible to have one book that covers it all, this book, Kitchens, Smokehouse, and Privies is a must have for those who enjoy the study of historic architecture and early American life.

Bravo - on a book I'm glad to have added to my old home resources.
This book is extremely useful for anyone interested in the above or below ground remnants of 18th and 19th century tidewater plantations. The reviewer above is correct- this volume is most relevant to the southern sector of the "Mid-Atlantic". As a bonus, it's beautifully written!
Beautiful book! Arrived in good condition in a timely fashion. I am thrilled with this purchase! Thank you.
Outbuildings make up a large part of a southern plantation or even many of the towns such as Colonial Williamsburg. Smokehouses, dairies, kitchens, and laundries were the foundations of life. But they also show us the lives of the slaves and the lower class, they show us the artwork and ideas of the colonies, and they show us a lot about how people lived, worked, and enjoyed life. They also destroys such myths as, for example, kitchens were away from the main buildings to protect them from fire. Nonsense. Many outbuildings survived the main buildings and few kitchens had fires. And the towns and cities rarely had kitchens outside the homes, even those of the rich. Why all the outbuildings? Why do we put the wires and pumping inside the walls? Food is delivered to the tables, coats are mended and washed, food is prepared away from the eyes of the guests and friends. Wealth and power is seen while the work, drudgery and sweat is hidden from view. This is how life really was and this is a book for anybody serious about American history.
I read the book before one of my many visits to Colonial Williamsburg and it really helped me to understand many of the structures and outbuildings I saw there - much of which was invisible to other visitors. I purchased this book at Shirley Plantation and am very happy with it.