Even the Kitchen Sink

I like pretty things.  That’s why when I recently visited a preserved village of houses, shops and streets, I was struck by the pretty interior decor. These are original colors, furnishings and buildings restored to the 1860s. For those in driving proximity, it’s called Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto.

How about the rich milky turquoise on these walls? The lovely color surprised me. Isn’t this a stunning kitchen? Homesteaders usually started out with a small log cabin as a first home, as quickly as they could clear the trees to make room. This would’ve been their second house, after living off the land for sixteen years–a two-story structure with more expensive furniture.

Here’s my favorite room in another house—the kitchen where the village seamstress took in sewing and made hats. The original log house was built in the 1830s. The kitchen was framed as a later addition in the 1850s. I’m guessing the room is about 15 x 20. The seamstress packed in a lot of interesting activities into this kitchen, and it was definitely the place where she liked to hang out.

Before the invention of interior plumbing, pioneers used what was called a ‘dry sink.’ They looked pretty much like some of our cabinets today, but with no faucet. When they washed dishes, there would be two pails standing inside the dry basin, one with warm soapy water and the other with clear. They did a whole variety of jobs while standing by this window—anything that was messy or needed water.  Canning, preserving, handling cheese, washing hair, cutting meat and numerous others.

The dry sink was positioned close to the stove, just as we like today, handy to grab a pot full of hot water or boil potatoes once they’d been peeled.  It was interesting to discover that villages like these, beyond the outskirts of a major city, were healthier than most because they had their own water wells. When epidemics like cholera, caused by contaminated water, plagued bigger cities, farms and villages that had their own water supplies were safe.

Here’s the sewing machine. (And a person dressed in costume demonstrating.)

And some other things the seamstress was working on—hats and dresses and clothing patterns cut of paper.






The decorations hanging near the sill caught my eye. I think it’s always been the woman who makes the home, who adds the pretty little touches and pats down all the feathers.

What’s your favorite room or corner in your house? Is there a special place where you like to read? Have you visited any interesting historical sites?


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36 thoughts on “Even the Kitchen Sink”

  1. Morning Kate. Love the photos!

    I’d say my favorite corner of my house would the living room. I almost always sit in the same corner of the couch and I have my TBR bookcase right next to my end of the couch.(I don’t just have a TBR pile…it’s moved up to a bookcase! LOL)

    I also enjoy the kitchen, sitting around our kitchen table and I have a cabinet my dad built years ago for my mom for a flower stand, but I now use it for a “photo” station with pictures of myself, husband, kids and pictures of my grandparents and great grandparents.

    I also enjoy the four shelves built into the wall between the living room and kitchen. During the year it’s filled with trinkets and bobbles and at Christmas…we transform it into a Christmas Village- so far we have filled 2 shelves, but each year we add one new piece to the village in hopes of working our way all the way to the top. 😀

    As far as interesting historical sites- I’ve been to Shaker Village in Shakertown, the Govenor’s mansion in Frankfort, KY as well as the original and new capital. One of my favorite things is the Floral Clock in spring when all the flowers in it are in bloom. I’ve been to Fort Boonesborough, too and the Kentucky Vietnam Veterns Memorial Sundial. (All field trips from when I was in school).

    I’d like to go tour Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg, but I’ve yet to get to go to that.

  2. Hi Kate,
    Great pics. I love going into restored homes or museums where the entire rooms are displayed. Here in L.A, we have an entire restored house, the origanal big barn and wagon are preserved. The tower water shed showed me just how they did manage indoor plumbing and the outdoor bath area, showed me, how much I love living in THIS era. It was a working ranch at one time and they keep horses, goats and other animals in the corrals still. Really a living history of the old West.
    My favorite room? I spend a great deal of time in my office, but since getting our big screen LCD in the bedroom, I do love laying in bed and watching TV, it’s more comfortable than going to the movies (and I love going to the movies)

  3. Hi Taryn! Your house sounds like it has a lot of really cozy places to curl up and relax! You’ve also visited quite a few neat hitorical sites. I’d love to see a Governor’s mansion sometime…and some of those big forts are really amazing. Especially when you think how few women entered the walls of a fort.

  4. Morning, Charlene! That tower water shed sounds really interesting. I’d love to visit it. Water must’ve been extra special in the dry areas like California. I spend a lot of time in my office, too, and love it. I’ve taken over the main part of the house–occupy the big living room that looks out over the street. It’s crammed with papers and books, etc, messy most of the time, but it’s my special place. Your bedroom LCD sounds like fun! We don’t have an LCD TV, nor High Definition (which I’d really love to get). I feel like I’m forever playing catch-up to new technology.

  5. Hi, Kate! I, too, love to visit old houses and just envision what it was like to live in them.

    I was especially struck by the paned windows in these pics. For many of the westerners, glass was a valuable commodity, but these opened and everything! I wonder if they’re from the 1860’s, too.

    My favorite place–hands down–is my new kitchen/addition. The sunroom has my new comfy leather recliner where I can either read or write on my Alpha Smart. The long counter holds my laptop and books when I’m on the computer. There’s a TV where I can watch the news when I’m cooking or The Today Show when I’m getting started for the day.

    I’m not in my office much these days. The sunroom is so much brighter and cheerier–whereas my office is downstairs without a single window in the room.

    Loved the pics!!

  6. Hi Pam! Very interesting observation about the windows you’ve made. 🙂 Yes, they’re originals (remade, most likely though, probably, because the original wood probably rotted). Surprisingly, single hung windows were invented in the late 1600s. (Called single hung because only the bottom window moved. Double hung windows both top and bottom moved. I had to look that up!). Anyway, the single hung windows originally went up and down by a system of pulleys or chains. Later they skipped the chains and just used a stick to prop them up. There are sticks visible in two of the photos.

    What they COULDN’T do back then, though, was manufacture glass in huge sheets. Window panes were always made up of smaller pieces of glass held together by wood or metal strips. Manufacturing of huge sheets of glass happened approx sometime after 1900. After that, as well as the invention of huge sheets of metal, skyscrapers as we know them started to be built. (the kind where walls are made of glass).

    Such attention to details, LOL, we must be writers! Thanks for the question–I missed that point.

    And after seeing photos of your new kitchen, I know that’s where you love to hang out!!

  7. Hi Jane! The village in Frederickberg sounds charming. These are such great places to visit, aren’t they? When I was a kid they used to bore me they were soooo old, LOL, but now I appreciate them and realize it wasn’t that long ago.

  8. Hi Kate!

    I love this post. Such beautiful pictures. It reminds me somewhat of where I’m staying now. I’m away from home, in Florida, and I’m staying in an old house that has been fixed up. I love the interiors, the old doors and door knobs, the floors, the windows and the moldings over each door. The locks are the old key locks that remind me of when I was very, very young.

    Great pictures. Makes me feel as if I were there with you. : )

  9. Loved the pictures and I enjoy going to visit places where the things are displayed in natural settings. Don’t go often enough.

    My favorite place to read is wherever I am. I spent the weekend reading in camp. I started (and finished) “Renegade Wife” by Charlene Sands yesterday while relaxing near a small stream while my husband fished.

  10. Kate,

    What gorgeous photos! That old house is so pretty and functional. I love visiting those historical sites and do every chance I get. The restored houses here in Texas are not as pretty. Most are very drab and look like they were just thrown up. I’m sure that doesn’t really depict frontier life. At least I hope not. But, I do enjoy seeing how the pioneers actually lived.

    The favorite place in my house is my living room. Like Taryn, it’s where I have my TBR stack. Sitting in my recliner, reading a good book is awfully close to heaven. It’s a light airy room. The least favorite place is my kitchen because I hate to cook!

    Excellent post! 🙂

  11. Beautiful photos, Kate. Makes me want to just move in. Don’t know which spot in my house is my favorite–I certainly spend the most time in my office. It’s decorated with original artwork, some of it my daughter’s, a shelf with my current research books, my cd’s a huge old desk, a comfy leather chair and a cat condo for my two pals. And I love my bedroom which is decorated with African batik and baskets. But all I do there is sleep.

  12. Oh Kate, what beautiful pictures! Other than running water and electricity LOL, let me live there!

    We have some neat preserved adobes close to home, and Virginia City, Nevada totally rocks. But after visiting there last fall, I’m just enamored of Shelburn Museum in Vermont. It isn’t a big building but dozens of smaller structures just as they were way back when.

    I think my favorite room at home would be my writing room. It’s full of books and framed pix of ancestors with a little corner dedicated to London full of souvenirs etc. and pix. (It’s my favorite non USA city LOL.) No one bothers me here, and I mean that word in the kindest way. I haven’t had my own room for way too many years. As soon as our daughter left home, I said the room is now MINE and you can’t come back…so far she hasn’t LOL.

  13. Hi Karen! You must be staying in a very lovely place! They have such history, don’t they? And your description of the locks sounds so homey and familiar. I remember them well.

    Pam–I didn’t see the sticks at first glance, either, till you mentioned the windows!

  14. Linda, LOL on your least favorite room! I didn’t think to ask that question. I think mine is the basement because it’s not finished and the spiders like it.

    A recliner sounds like a great place to me!

    I know what you mean about some of these historical sites that are threadbare. I’m sure if, in a 100 years, they stripped our houses of everything but the walls and the furniture, they wouldn’t get an accurate picture of things we love to do. Presentation is everything. I was surprised to learn that there are personal ‘stagers’ now that people hire to make a house look beautiful with props, such as fully decorated dining table complete with lit candles, when they want to sell it? There’s a TV show that does it–can’t remember the name.

  15. Hi Elizabeth, I love your original artwork and the cat condo! African art is stunningly beautiful to me. In fact, I bought a couple of sculpture-like hangings last week, but had to return them. When I brought them home, they went with absolutely nothing in any room. They looked oddly out of place–maybe when I redo the basement I’ll figure out how to incorporate some.

  16. Tanya, LOL on wanting to move into the pioneer village! I do know how you feel though. Whoever decorated it really took the time to make all the details and touches so inviting.

    I’ve heard you mention Shelburn Museum before. Must be a neat place!

    I’d love to see London! I was there in my very early 20s but too broke to really see much (backpacking across Europe on $10 a day!)

    Your writing room sounds perfect!

  17. Hi Kate,
    Your pictures are great. I enjoy visiting historical sites and I have to say that Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is one of my favorites.

  18. I love the pictures, Kate. Visiting historical homes is one of my favorite things to do. Now that the kids are grown up, we can go all we want and not bore them and never have to visit the theme parks. Whooo! But trust me, all my kids have seen plenty of historic sites. LOL

    There is a great living history town in Wichita and a couple in Iowa. I’ve visited several in Kansas City, too. Also several towns as well as forts in Nebraska. One of my favorites is the house that J. Sterling Morton built in Nebraska City. He was the Morton salt guy. They were well-to-do and had servants’ rooms and carriage houses. Nearby they hold a civil war reinactment once a year.

    Oh, and in Dubuque, Iowa there are some gorgeous homes, one that one of the presidents lived in. They are set on the Illinois River and the streets are practically straight up and down–there’s a tram lift from downtown to an upper street. Very cool.

    One of the best things about being a guest speaker is getting paid to sight-see!

  19. Connie – Wow, you finished reading my book in one day! Thanks for the lovely image of you sitting by a stream reading MY book. It makes a nice visual. Did your husband catch any fish?

  20. Very interesting pics!
    My favorite place is on the end of the couch. I read, cross stitch, knit and watch tv from there.

  21. Cheryl, LOL on those theme parks! I’m so not into them and they’re so expensive. Your area of the world sounds really ripe with frontier history. So cool that you’ve been able to guest speak at some of these places!

  22. Charlene, that is a lovely image of Connie reading your book by the side of a stream!

    Estella, LOL on the couch. Can’t beat that. I love my corner of the couch, too. 🙂

  23. Enjoyed reading the comments.
    We have a neat place to visit here outside of Phoenix called Pioneer Arizona where they are dressed in the clothes of early Arizona and doing everday chores like churning butter.
    I learned to sew as a young girl on my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine. Reminds me of the one in the photo.

  24. Hi,

    Love the pictures. They remind me of my mom’s kitchen. Aside from her modern appliances, she and my dad built their house based on an old design with wide plank floors through out, even in the kitchen. They hand stenciled the wall and my mom has antiques covering the walls and positioned throughout the rooms. I recognize the long handled strainer with the holes in it and the little hand held food chopper in this kitchen as the same as what my mom has hanging in hers. When we were kids we used to go visit places like Old Sturbridge Village and the Shelburn Museum. Maybe that’s where I got my love of history.

  25. Hi Kathy! I love wide-planked floors. I’ve been craving them for about 10 years. They’re so attractive, and much warmer than the ceramic I’ve got in my kitchen. I had to smile at all the details you noticed in the photos–I looked at them, too, and wondered what some of them were for. Your mom and dad’s house sounds beautiful, with a real nice feel to it!

  26. Beautiful pictures I love going to old homes. My favorite place here is in the living room in the corner where my chair is I have a old sewing machine that’s sit in a table and behind it is my “to read” pile of books! LOL!

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