Dairy or “Cooler”

Dairy Cooler After Restoration

The dairy or “cooler” at Roseland, built in a vernacular version of the Greek Revival style, is one of the rare surviving antebellum structures of its kind. An overhanging roof, resting on cedar poles or “columns,” extends over a well or cistern. Click here for a sectional view of the dairy cooler as originally constructed.

 

A door in the clapboard building opens into a room that could have served as a storage room for foodstuffs, as a work room for churning butter, or as a sewing room for making textiles. A weaving shuttle discovered in the cellar during restoration may suggest that this room had a variety of uses.

Dairy Cellar Floor Before Restoration

The brick-lined cellar, entered through a separate entrance on the side, has a limestone floor into which carved steps lead underneath a limestone bridge to a square well with a stone storage shelf. The well itself extends another 12 to 14 feet below the cellar floor. Groundwater constantly seeps into the well, helping to maintain a cool temperature. It is possible that at one time this cavern held blocks of ice transported by steamboat up the Tombigbee River to Demopolis. Today a sump pump helps to regulate the amount of water in the well.

In the 1860 Agricultural Census, Samuel Fitts reported owning 15 milk cows. Milk would have sat in milkpans on the limestone shelves until the cream rose and could be churned into butter.

Dairy Well with Stone Shelf

 A family member recalled that as a boy he saw boats of butter floating on the water in the well.

 The rear half of the cellar was open to the rafters to allow daylight and ventilation. Meats and other foodstuffs probably hung from these rafters. In the course of the restoration, the decision was made to install flooring over the entire building to increase its functionality as covered shelter. The open studs show where the storage room originally ended.

Click here to view a virtual video tour of the original dairy cooler.

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