Wednesday, August 20, 2008


When the oldest child moves out of the house, the rest of the children usually fight over his/her room. If Riddick's Folly's various exhibits and purposes are children, this analogy quite nicely reflects what will happen in less than two weeks when the peanut exhibit comes down.

The room in which that exhibit currently resides was formerly the house's pantry and larder room. Its windows offer a street-level (literally!) view of Main Street and the sidewalk leading to the front steps of the house. That it has these windows makes it an optimal place for our gift shop, but an unusual place for a larder room.

Typically, the larder room, pantry, and kitchen all occupied separate buildings on the property. These buildings, along with a smokehouse, an ice house, and a root cellar made up most of the support facilities for life in the house. Mills Riddick's design for his house brought the kitchen, laundry room, and larder room all into his basement -- Riddick's Folly, indeed.

Of these, perhaps the larder room made the most sense. It required a cool place, such as a basement, and its proximity to the kitchen would have been convenient to be sure. The larder room takes its name from -- you guessed it -- lard. Meats would be partially cooked or smoked, and then stored in vats of lard to keep them until they were ready for final cooking and preparation. As it needed no fire for its operation, there was no risk of damage or destruction, at least from that. Such was obviously not the case for the kitchen, or even the laundry room for that matter.

The house's former kitchen houses the gift shop at the moment, but its lack of natural light and its unnatural ceiling (protruding in places with 20th century ductwork) make it more like a cave than a shop, certainly not the kind of place in which one would feel comfortable shopping. Its windows once looked out on the Riddick family's garden, and its close proximity to the family's smokehouse made the kitchen's location in the basement rather handy. When the family added on a side porch in the early 20th century, the kitchen's windows looked out on nothing but a wall, and the smokehouse was torn down. On top of this, the family constructed a new, modern kitchen as a separate wing on the rear of the building, just off the back parlor which was then used as a dining room.

It makes sense, then to relocate our gift shop to the former pantry/larder room/peanut gallery. Not only does the gift shop get a better location with windows, but we can now restore the period kitchen to make more complete our presentation of the Riddicks' 19th century home.

However, for the time being, that presentation will be a little light. So far we have only a dry sink and a jelly cupboard to fill the space, making interpretation akin to games of make-believe we play when we're younger (though it's too bad we stop playing them). We'll address this over time, sure, but the walls will be awfully bare for a while.

There is the matter of the smokehouse, but that's the subject of another post. Stay tuned.

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