Photo Essay

Historical Outbuildings



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April 24, 2018:  I noticed my first spring house (photos above and below) in Delaware Township about 6-7 years ago.  It is on a small narrow country lane, one that I drove down every day for several years on the way to work in our lab/offices in Rosemont.  I never noticed it until one day there was a traffic jam of ducks waddling across the road – and they took so long that I had lots of time to get out my camera and start taking photographs of the quacking grid lock that was developing.  I raised my eyes, and there she was.  The most beautiful spring house you could imagine.  Very over-grown with tall weeds, grasses, vines, brush trees.  The variations in color and textures were perfect – and the stones equally appealing.  It was a perfect stone structure for the spring house.  I fell in love.


I visited and photographed this spring house in all four seasons, many times.  Hoping to get the “just right” photograph.  My biggest fear, even today, is that one day I will return to do this again, but it will be gone…..

So, what exactly is a Spring House?  Or Springhouse?  Well, usually is has water, from a surface spring.  This patch of water, which can be flowing, is protected by an enclosure, typically from stone, brick or wood, with a door that can be sealed closed from the elements and possible intruders.  It is damp, and cool, year round.    The surface area various and the materials of construction vary as well.  Some of solid structures made masterfully from stone with great care and cost.  Others are more simple, but each springhouse contains the same elements of an enclosed water source.

These springhouses can be quite cool, serving as a short term refrigerator for dairy products, especially milk, and roots, vegetables.  In some communities, with dairy farmers, these springhouses were a drop off spot for milk containers, for subsequent deliveries. In some cases, it seems that the springhouse was solely build to protect the surface water source.  These can be quite small, perhaps 4′ wide x 6′ deep and 8-10′ tall.  The inside space no bigger than a small coat closet.

On richer homesteads, springhouses can be quite large.  They may have dirt floors and solid thick stone walls and roofs.  Possibly a window or two.  In some cases, the springhouse can be combined with the summer kitchen which is delightful to see!  These structures look like self contained small dwellings, possibly two floors or lofted, with hearths, baking ovens, water channels, etc.  A picture of ingenuity!  Indeed, it is easy to see that necessity is the mother of invention.  They are not the water wells of the homestead, but cool locations for storage and protectors of surface springs.

May 15,  2018: Traveling through Hunterdon County’s townships, I occasionally run across a gem of a springhouse, summer kitchen or combination structure, if I am lucky!  Here is a one near a road in Delaware Township.  It is a fine stone two story building in Delaware Township.

Raven Rock a

Not far from this springhouse is another set back from the road.

I especially like the wooden doors that have survived on these structures for a century or more.  The hardware and the wood capture my attention quite easily.

Raven Rock b3

June 14, 2018:  I didn’t quite know what this stone outbuilding was with the two doors and the wooden compartment on the side.  This is in Raritan Township.


I drive past this stone outbuilding regularly since it on a neighboring farm.  Finally, one morning, I stopped to speak with the farmer and learned that it was a Smoke House.  He opened up the wooden compartment, and it is a water well!!


And he was gracious in showing me how the smoke house worked many years ago.  Here is the Smoke House from the other side, showing the vent on the side with a window.


The Smoke House has two doors, divided into unequal sized compartments.  One door opens to the fire pit, and the other is for the smoking of meats.  The farm many years ago was a dairy/cattle farm.  Another view is shown below, showing a vent for the fire compartment.


Several of the beautiful stone walls of the cattle barn remain standing on the farm, glorious relics of times past.  Portions are shown below:


June 17, 2018:  Occasionally I run into a perfect springhouse.  Delaware Township.


The garden surrounding the springhouse is impressive.  Sometimes I am just able to snatch a photo and can’t explore inside for details. I’ll try to revisit this outbuilding on another occasion.

June 18, 2018:  On occasion, there will be a summer kitchen that is extraordinary in many ways, inside and out, also in Delaware Township.


The small door at the opposite side of the summer kitchen is inviting too.


At the same summer kitchen in Delaware Township, it was delightful to take a picture from the inside out!  Beautifully restored with dried herbs and flowers in appropriate places!


June 29, 2018:  My studies and research into springhouses and other outbuildings leads me to other types of construction – more bank-type structures.  Here is one of my favorites both in Winter and in the early Spring.



Another example at the opposite side of Delaware Township is shown below:


The doorway is perfectly squared – the stonework admirable.  I love the walls and the covered springhouse, perfects, or perhaps a root and dairy cellar.  As I study these outbuildings and find more throughout Hunterdon County, I’m always struck by the careful design and construction.  This was hard and important work for the homestead and the surrounding communities.