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 originally opened 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. This space was originally one-room deep, with the back half of the building left unfloored to allow natural light and ventilation to reach the cellar floor.

Dairy Cellar Floor Before Restoration

The brick-lined cellar, entered through a separate entrance on the side,CoolerWell.Ed 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. Click here to view a virtual video tour of the original dairy cooler.

Dairy Well with Shelf

Dairy Well with Shelf

A family member recalled that as a boy he saw boats of butter floating on the water in the well, and that meat and other foodstuffs were hung from the rafters above.

By the time restoration efforts were begun on the cooler in 2008, all floor and wall boards had been removed by scavengers. In the course of the 2008 restoration, the decision was made to install flooring over the entire building to increase its functionality as covered shelter. The open studs  in the picture at right show where the storage room originally ended.

The 2014 restoration project sought to preserve the dimensions of the  original work room. Modern board & batten paneling was added to the lower part of the wall, leaving a transom space revealing the original wall studs. A pocket door between the front room, now used as a prep kitchen, and the back bedroom, helps to create the sense of a seamless wall. The bedroom, equipped with a queen- sized air bed, can be used alternatively as a meeting space for business retreats. A full bath and shower is tucked into the rear of the building.IMG_3938IMG_3929IMG_3940IMG_3932IMG_3931

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