Thursday, May 13, 2010


SMOKEHOUSE -- Where meat is cured from a slow hardwood fire. Usually the smoked meat is stored in the smokehouse after being cured.

The above smokehouse sits on the Rodgers-Trible Homestead in Madison County, Kentucky, just outside Richmond. It is part of a large restoration effort by the Madison County Fiscal Court and the Battle of Richmond Association.

Presently the Rodgers-Trible Homestead is closed to the public. All outbuildings extant on the property appear to be untouched since becoming part of the museum homestead property. The exception is with what is believed to be a slave house -- it is presently under major restoration due to a severe state of decline.

It was a pleasure to walk the grounds (with permission) and be the only one peeking and peering into the outbuildings. Sometimes outbuildings are not appreciated for their "language" that "talk and tell" the history of a place. Hopefully, the buildings on this place will be left in their original state and only maintained as needed -- keeping their character. Every piece of an old structure is a story.

The Rodgers-Trible Homestead was settled in the early 1800s. As with all properties, over time, they change. The smokehouse is box board construction, a type of construction popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A shed roof structure is attached on the side -- perhaps constructed after the smokehouse was erected? The smokehouse sits perhaps 30 feet or so from the rear door of the main house. Even though it is labeled a smokehouse, it could have been used for various other rural uses.

Could the metal roof of the smokehouse have been wood shingles at one time? There are dirt floors inside both the smokehouse and its attached shed. Only one door leads into the smokehouse and one door into the shed. There is not a connecting interior door between the shed attachment and the smokehouse. Stepping into the smokehouse is accomplished by using a low elevated slab of quarried limestone.

The shed's one and only window is now empty of glass panes. It acts as a frame for the ancient tree just outside. As I walked about the large section of property I felt an eerie sense of people who once lived and worked there. This always seems to happen to me when I come across an empty homestead. I look for shadows of use on the buildings and paths worn over time. These shadows represent the living of a time past.


  1. Great pictures and wonderful post! Around here (western NC)they were called 'meat houses' and usually the meat was salt cured rather than smoked. There are tales of hard times during the Civil War when salt was in short supply. It's said folks dug up the dirt floors of their meat houses and boiled the dirt to extract any residual salt.

  2. Vicki --- your mention that NC outbuildings, like the one in my post, are called meat houses is very interesting. I was told by the folks involved with the homestead property that it was called a smokehouse. I am a recent arrival to KY so I accepted the name. In my travels around the country all smoke houses had vents on the roof and on this particular smokehouse it was not apparent. Perhaps I missed it somehow. I am going to ask the powers that be if this smokehouse could possibly be a meat-house. Without a roof vent it would be difficult to smoke meats, which could point to the use of salt as a preservative. If you notice in my post, I alluded to the fact that outbuilding labels don't always fit due to historic changes. I know this first hand as I wrote a book on farm buildings and found that outbuildings can change in tandem with the social and economic culture of the farm -- one year a chicken coop, next year its a smokehouse. For now I will stick with the name they gave me but will research your name too. I really appreciate your information. Very interesting about the salt during the Civil War too.

  3. I, too, Barbara, was searching for a vent on the building. I like the watering can in the doorway...perhaps for cooling the fire down? (in the event it turns out to indeed, be a smokehouse as opposed to "meat house." My only connection with the term "meathouse" was that friends of ours erected a modern-day "meat' house, where they kept all butchering tools, a butchering band saw, stainless sink, concete floor. Very sterile! They did a lot of butchering there, though, with a family of five children!

    Thank you again, for your delightful post.

  4. Love the post and the photos :)
    It could have been a smokehouse turned into a meat house, as fashions and availability of wood changed?
    I notice the outline of the shed on the side of the smokehouse facing us; perhaps it was shifted to the other side when they re-roofed it, removing the flue?
    You can see just under the eaves is a different drip-line mark from an earlier roof which hugged the structure more closely than the current roofline does, but other than that, I got nothing lol.

  5. Elora and Jayne -- I sure appreciated the comments on the smokehouse. You are right Jayne, some shifting might have gone on with this outbuilding? And yes, Elora -- no vent. Perhaps they let some of the smoke trickle out between the boards? Old structures, over time, do have a tendency to change and it can be fun to play detective with them. Thanks to both of you. -- barbara