Behind the Beall-Dawson House is the last remaining original outbuilding, affectionately (?) known as the Dairy House.  Its purpose is storage: today, for miscellaneous supplies and large (and relatively impervious) artifacts, and in the past as a kind of large outdoor pantry.  The photo at left shows the Dairy in 1952, when the House was owned by the Davis family.

Yesterday, our intrepid GWU interns helped me tackle the Dairy House, which needed an inventory and, since it’s not entirely enclosed, a good sweeping.  Few people get to see the inside of our little outbuilding, so I thought I’d take a slightly different direction on the blog, and put up some photos!

The typical dairy house is built partly underground, the better to keep things cold.  (Here’s an example from another Dawson house, from the HABS photo collection.)  It would be more accurate to call our building a “spring house,” but somehow “dairy” stuck.  The first floor is on ground level; there’s a plaster-on-brick trough built along the back (north) wall, through which our parking-lot-puddle-creating underground spring was fed thanks to a now-vanished windmill.  The flowing spring water helped keep perishable items cool.  Today, the spring stays underground and we avoid putting anything perishable in here.  This photo shows a foot-powered grindstone (donated by Jean Fisher) standing in the old water trough. (I hope a photo appears here.  WordPress is objecting to all versions of this image, I’m not sure why.) [click here to see it.]

The second floor, reached by both an exterior door and a ladder leading to a hole in the floor, was probably just regular old storage, as it is today.   Shown here are a gigantic pair of blacksmith’s bellows – don’t ask me how they got them up there (it was long before my time) – and, in the foreground, a wooden bell wheel from the old St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville.

As far as we know, the Dairy House is as old as the House itself (ca. 1815).   The building is brick, plastered inside, with a gable roof; its footprint is 10′ x 12′, sitting 32′ from the back wall of the House.   It appears on early 20th century fire insurance maps (labeled in 1908 as a “Dairy,” perhaps contributing to its modern name), but is not specifically mentioned on anything earlier.  The upstairs door, cedar roof, and interior floors (wood upstairs, concrete downstairs) were replaced by the Davis family in the 1940s, and the barred windows and main door were installed about 20 years ago.

So there you go – a little sneak peek at our often-overlooked outbuilding.  Give it a Hello next time you visit!

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