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AS SUBORDINATE AS THEY MAY APPEAR, outbuildings were historically the heart of any homestead. Often designed to serve a specific function, ancillary structures of all shapes and forms were a ubiquitous part of our rural landscape. For people of means, accessory structures were also a symbol of prestige and wealth, classical monuments built purely as folly. The way of life that once compelled such structures has, for many, faded into memory. But the romance of such structures, whether humble or ornate, still captivates our imagination. With whimsy and creativity, they give soul to a place: architectural compositions that add balance, hierarchy, and a sense of history. While equestrian and agrarian structures such as barns and stables remain relevant in today’s design, the bygone smokehouse, root cellar, dairy, dovecote, or cookhouse (to name just a few) still have a place, re-interpreted for the needs of modern living. Uses for such forms abound, from guest houses and studios to potting sheds and pool cabanas, perpetuating the architectural heritage and quiet dignity of the often overlooked outbuilding for future generations.
Seabrook, South Carolina
IN THE ANTEBELLUM SOUTH, lanterns were hung in trees to aid navigation at night along the region’s back rivers. This new lantern is a playful adaptation - part folly, part beacon - used as an intimate space for entertaining on this historic estate.
FROM THE CIRCA 1827 DEAN HALL, one can catch a glimpse of the guest cottages through the Live Oak canopy. Simple and honest materials, evocative of the region’s centuried vernacular, imbue the new cottages with a sense of age. Heart pine, indigenous brick, and an antique mantle are but a few touches that allow these young additions to complement the site’s history and heritage.
Cabins and Bunkies
ON A NARROW RIDGE in the North Carolina mountains, these cabins recede into the landscape as if they have stood for a hundred years, but they are actually new structures composed entirely of reclaimed and indigenous materials. Rusty tin sheathing and boards of chestnut, poplar, and pine salvaged from local barns and houses offer the authentic patina of age. Stacked stone piers and fireplaces, made with rocks plucked from nearby mountains, convey the rugged craftsmanship of centuries past.
METICULOUSLY DISMANTLED, MOVED, AND REASSEMBLED, this 1830s log house was expanded by splitting it down the middle and adding a central hallway to create a dogtrot layout. Named for the central open-air passageways through which a dog could trot, this form was common in the rural South. Working in traditional methods, craftsmen hand-set the original dovetail joints and chinked the spaces between the hewn logs with plaster. To create additional room in this re-imagined guest house, the ceiling was raised to accommodate two sleeping lofts accessible only by primitive ladders, as they would have been in the nineteenth century.
The Anatomy of a Bunkie
The Barn and Beyond
“A LONG TIME AGO, it was not uncommon to ride along a narrow dirt road
and come upon a home place where the barn was on one side
and the dwelling house on the other.”
~ Ferrol Sams
INSPIRED BY THE REFINED BARNS found on equestrian estates,
this soulful carriage house was built in the traditional post and beam fashion.
HAND MOLDED BRICK and rustic wood lintels add
a touch of Acadian influence to these outbuildings,
a traditional pigeonnier and carriage house.
BASED ON AN 1860s SMOKEHOUSE, this anything-but-utilitarian guest house exudes a high level of sophistication. While its roots are a simple agrarian form, the materials and details help to maintain architectural harmony with the Greek Revival influences of the estate’s main house.
Revisiting the Caretaker’s Cottage
BUILT IN THE 1930s BY HENRY FORD at his winter retreat near Savannah, this former caretaker’s cottage had been abandoned for decades. Historical Concepts consulted on the restoration of the primitive, 800 square foot cottage for clients who were compelled to save it from demolition and preserve Ford’s legacy.
By this time, Henry Ford had amassed nearly 70,000 acres of antebellum rice plantation around Richmond Hill, Georgia and began building a Greek revival style mansion on the banks of the Ogechee River. In the decades that followed, Henry Ford’s winter retreat became the center of social gatherings for prominent families from the Northeast, including the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and DuPonts. Today, The Ford Plantation is a private sporting community under a canopy of 17th century live oak trees. As a new generation of residents began to enjoy Ford’s former retreat, the restoration of its original structures was important to preserving its history.
To honor its humble past, many of the cottage’s materials were preserved. Original poplar tongue and groove walls, heart pine floors and terra cotta roof tiles were restored, while antique lighting and architectural salvage finds were added for period authenticity.