Kentucky Barn, Madison County

Sunday, July 17, 2011

OLD WOODEN WASH HOUSE


OLD WASH HOUSE
MADISON COUNTY, KENTUCKY
I noticed this small, square, one-room, weather-boarded outbuilding several years ago. The property it sat on had a house, canning outbuilding and a wash house outbuilding -- all were vacant. I now can name  the outbuildings because I finally took the time to stop and ask about them.


I asked the next-door neighbor (to the property) about the two small outbuildings about twenty-five feet behind the vacant house. She had lived next to the house for most of her adult years. She said that the old folks who had previously lived there always called it their wash house. She gave me the name of the present owners that lived down the road so I rode down to talk with them.

OLD WASH HOUSE DOOR
One door wash house. 
Wooden door with four raised panels.
Similar to other doors from the early 1900s period. 


The owner gentleman said the property with house and outbuildings had been in his family as long as he could remember  He felt that the old buildings went back to the early 1900s. At that early date there would have been no electricity nor water lines out in this part of the country. Washing clothes would have been a large undertaking by the women of the house.

There was a large cistern on the property where they undoubtedly got their water for washing. And of course they would have to heat the water which could probably be efficiently done in their backyard. All the washing paraphernalia was probably stored in the wash house. Probably many of the early activities connected with washing clothes would have been carried on inside the small wash house in cold weather.


OLD WASH HOUSE WINDOW
Four pane, or also called lights, sash window. One in the front of the wash house, the other located at the very back. Window design similar to early 1900s. 



I need to say the word  "probably" often when I write about the use of the wash house as no one seemed to know that much about it. The neighbor knew that it was called a wash house. The new owner did not know what the outbuilding was called. He did say that he remembered family folks washing on the back porch of the main house in the summer. This is the extent of oral history I could obtain.

We cannot say for sure what went on in and around the wash house. I do know from research that this type of outbuilding has similar construction and size, as those listed in the Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service. 


WOMAN SCRUBBING HER WASH OUTDOORS
Courtesy : Franklin D. Roosevelt Library,  National Archives and Records Administration

I don't have a photo of an original family member doing wash. So, I found this early 1900s photo that will give one an idea of the washing accessories that were prevelent at the time. There are other types of accessories that can be found at this site -- which covers the 1800s to the early 1900s.



"Wash House"
Herman Farm, Washington, Maryland
Archival Photo
Historic American Building Survey
National Park Service
Department of the Interior




*Enjoy your automatic washer!

32 comments:

  1. Hello:
    Oh, how fortunate we are indeed to have the modern convenience of an automatic washing machine. We are of an age when we can just recall our grandparents with a copper tub for boiling water and washing clothes, together with a washboard and mangle. Those were the days!

    The 'wash house' which you picture is absolutely delightful and it would be so good if it were to be restored.

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  2. I love this!!!!!!!!!!!

    I go to the laundromat.

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  3. Every time I see these pictures I chide myself for ever complaining about any household chores whatsoever. Hauling buckets of water to my flowers & herbs is heavy, I can't imagine pumping it and having to do laundry as they did. Those women were amazing! I am really curious about the history of the "wash house" now.

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  4. Jane and Lance -- In the early 1900s folks wore their clothes until they could be stood in a corner. Unlike today, where we fling our clothes into a wash machine at the drop of a hat. Seldom washing of clothes probably saved many a woman's back. thanks for the comments -- barbara

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  5. Auntea -- One thing to think about is that usually early families had family help with chores. I bet you do all your hauling by yourself while doing other chores as well. Nice that you have flowers and herbs. -- barbara

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  6. Kay -- So do I. I prefer to get all the wash done quickly so I can enjoy preferred activities. Thanks for stopping - barbara

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  7. My grandmother, who is still living at the age of 95, did her wash in a building similiar to this. She had a wringer washer and would wheel it out of the house, in warm weather. The wash would be done in the sunshine and hung on the line to dry. We would visit her in the summer months and I have fond memories of this event. Although, I am sure it wasn't a fond activity for her.

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  8. Farmchick -- How very interesting. The only references that I could find about wash houses were in southern states (southern states defined by Wiki)? How nice that you have memories of the wash house and your grandmother using it. Wonderful to have a grandmother who is 95! Thanks for the great comments -- barbara

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    1. Midwest Iowa has washhouses too. My folks lived on a farm in Madison Co, Ia where I was born. There was a washhouse there. In 1950, the building wasn't used as a washhouse because Dad had hand-built a new house and put the gas-powered washer in the basement. But the "out" building was still called the washhouse . . . and unused washhouses can still be found on rural farmsteads today.

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    2. Nance -- so nice to hear your history of washhouses in Madison Co., IA. At the rate that outbuildings are coming down on farmlands I can only hope that a few will remain in the future. -- thanks barbara

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  9. Love the wash house, that door and sash window were fancy for a wash house!
    Shall I horrify you by telling you I still wash by hand and I use one of those mangles to squeeze the water out of the clothes? lol
    We called them wash houses here in Oz, too, though most of the time they were tacked onto the back of the main (suburban) house like a lean-to or built into the verandah.

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  10. Enjoy the automatic washer is right. My Mom began motherhood washing diapers on a scrub board in the bathtub. We thought it was grand when she got her first washing machine. We did the wash in the yard as you have pictured above. The old wash house looks like the "playhouse" my Dad built for us. Thanks again for brining back those old memories. Dianne

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  11. Jayne -- Actually I think it is great that you do your wash by hand and use a mangle. We call a mangle a wringer in the U.S. I have thought about doing something akin to hand washing myself.
    thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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  12. Dianne -- hard to imagine the work it took to keep clean clothes on children in the early years. Was her first wash machine a wringer wash machine? My Mother had a wringer machine and she had me as an assistant for several years. She washed and I ran the clothes through the wringer, put them in a clothes basket and ran upstairs from the basement to hang them on the line. Actually, this was one of my favorite jobs that my Mother assigned me. Thanks for the comments -- barbara

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  13. Just love your photo eye and the interest you have to find out more that you photograph. I now have the desire to do the same here in Tennessee.
    So fun to see your blog.

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  14. Interesting post. We are so lucky today. I have some old sad irons, washboards and a wooden folding wash stand. They are neat, but I'm glad I don't have to use them.

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  15. I have washed clothes by hand with a scrub board and it's bloody tedious. Hooray for the automatic washer! I dp like a clothes line -- with a dryer for backup on rainy days...

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  16. I remember Mom using a washing machine downstairs in the cellar with a hand wringer at the top.

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  17. A separate wash house is new to me. I had a wringer washer when I was first married, although electric, not hand cranked like the one in your picture. I'm sure that was seen as a big improvement, but I sure didn't miss it when I got an automatic a year later!

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  18. Indeed yes, it was the old wringer washer. We had two bigs tubs of rinse water with it. My job was to catch the clothes as they came through the wringer and push them down in the rinse water, or in the basket for hanging. I always loved hanging clothes out to dry and miss it like crazy today.

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  19. Though I've only ever known automatic washing machines, I do remember to appreciate mine often! Though I admit to having looked with no small amount of longing at this one over the years. It just seems to simple and efficient and I like that you could easily use it outside on the patio in nice weather, or during power outages, and that it uses less water and no electricity. Someday, I'd really like to have one of these! But oy, the physical labor and time involved in doing laundry back in the day, and especially during winter months... those "women of the wash house" would no doubt take a stout tree branch to our contemporaries who lightly wear something once and throw it in the hamper!

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  20. Sheri -- I imagine you were happy to get that automatic washer. It does have its advantages. But I have to say I have good memories of my mother and I doing the wash with a ringer and hanging the clothes outside. -- thanks -- barbara

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  21. Diane -- that is what I like about blogging. One can tell a story and illustrate with photos. Thanks for stoping by -- I appreciate it -- barbara

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  22. Janet -- you are a real collector. I imagine that you might have these old items by your wash area. I like old things as they were made so well and always have a lot of character. Thanks -- barbara

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  23. Vicki -- I imagine washing clothes on a scrub board would be tedious. As I type this I am thinking that probably young folks don't even know what a scrub board is. Thanks -- barara

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  24. Birdman -- Ahh you are revealing your age. Was a common place for women to be when they washed clothes with an electric wringer washer -- long about mid-20th century. Thanks -- barbara

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  25. I just took some photos of an abandoned farm over the weekend, and there was a little out building similar to your top photo, half way between the barn and the house. I wondered what it was used for!

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  26. Dianne -- Yes, your description of doing the wash with the wringer washer is exactly like my experience. Somehow the whole procedure brought my mother and I closer. And, I too still like clothes dried on the line. Thanks -- barbara

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  27. Tess -- Many outbuildings abound on farmsteads. I always ask neighbors or the folks that live on the farm. Maybe Ohio has an architectural book on farms which might help ID it. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  28. Laloofah -- I think that Lehman's washer looks wonderful. A bit pricey though. I like to look at Lehmans items -- haven't done so in awhile. I took an oral history once from an old farmer that told me how his mother made soap to wash with. One bar of soap was good for all types of cleaning. So in addition to washing the clothes many farm women made their own soap to wash with!

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  29. As a young girl I remember my blind grandma doing her wash with an washing machine that featured an open tub with agitator and a wringer to squeeze out the clothes. I was always amazed that she never got her fingers pinched as she fed the wet clothes into the wringer.

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  30. Darcy -- Ouch -- that would hurt for sure. Amazing that she learned to use a wringer as a blind person. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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