An Odd Stone Building

Now that my rural newspaper delivery route has been inverted and reversed I’m getting some new perspectives on the landscape, my familiar one hundred miles of mid-continent gravel roads.

A couple of days ago I was driving on a hilly blacktop county road, looking for a turn-off which, as it turned out, looked really different from the other direction, when I happened to notice an architectural oddity out in the middle of a field of corn stubble.

I pulled over and parked, then grabbed my camera and walked out into the field to investigate.

So strange! The structure was a small limestone building, about fourteen by twenty feet, with one low and narrow door, a single small window, and a loft accessible via a gable-end door, like a loft door in a barn.

What could this have been built for? I peered in the open doorway; the building was being used as storage for firewood and pallets. It reminded me of a settlement-era jail, with just the one small window.

The door is a classic example of a 19th-century utilitarian rural shed door. The latch and an iron rod used to prop the door open:

A close-up of the latch handle. I loved the strands of spider web!

The stonework was true and plumb, very well-executed, but the mortar looked recent, as if the building had been tuck-pointed not too many years ago.

I need a researcher to follow along behind me and look into the history of such finds! A candidate should be competent in botany, mycology, and local history, and should also have a familiarity with vernacular architecture. The pay is non-existent. Interested applicants can contact me here on the blog!




Filed under Essays and Articles, Photos, Quincy

9 responses to “An Odd Stone Building

  1. You should see my college then. It’s almost 60 years old and made out of HUGE stones! It’s in Abbottabad (I’m sure you know all about it now 😉 ) one of the boarding houses fell down during the infamous ’05 earthqauke 😦

  2. And the toilets are so old and the doors and everything….

  3. bev

    Beautiful little building! Up in my own area, if I saw such a building, I would be thinking spring house. This would be the larger kind which generally had some low troughs where you could stand either milk or cream cans until they went to the local dairy. However, that would mean there would be a spring nearby. The building looks to be sitting there all alone with nothing around except crop fields, so I am guessing this is the last physical remnant of what was perhaps an older farmstead -maybe a dairy farm that would have need for such a building. Anyhow, that’s my best guess. Hope you unearth more information on its history.

  4. I’ve seen several spring houses in this area, Bev, but they usually don’t have such lofty ceilings, or a loft, for that matter! There were no signs of troughs inside, and the location was too high for springs to be likely. A smokehouse? No chimney, though. A little barn for a single cow, maybe?

    I’d love to see your college, Pakistani Boy! Post some photos on your blog, maybe.

  5. Joan

    The fact that the stonework has been kept up may mean it’s an historical building. Why don’t you ask whomever has a farm near it. Has to belong to someone. Looks like a little barn with the tiny loft door up there. To small for a corn crib?
    I just learned something via “This Old House” about the basements of 19th century homes. The narrator said they excavated the basements by hand, and used the field stones they dug up to build the basement walls. Now this was New England..which has a lot of rocks. Wonder if one could harvest that many in an Illinois corn field.

  6. Nope, Joan! The settlers here started out using ledge-rock limestone, but it wasn’t long before they were quarrying from the bluffs.

    Corn cribs usually have slatted wooden sides, so the corn can dry without molding. I’ll wait until I see somebody outside the nearby house. I’m a bit shy about banging on people’s doors, a stranger out of the blue.

  7. Joan

    I noticed that the New Englanders often referred to rock as ‘ledge’. Had never heard that term before around here until just now. Why, I don’t know. Course, I’m not a miner, and it’s been a very long time since I was a minor.:) We sure had to navigate falling ‘ledge’ from Lover’s Leap back when River Road was still active. Still, watching them repair this old basement wall was fascinating. The thing looked like it was just piled up, like a mortar free wall, chinking big stones with smaller, and then they slogged mortar in the smaller holes and finished off the joints with it. In other words, I wondered what the outside was like that was pressed against the mud wall of the excavation. No wonder old basements were damp.
    Sure hope you can find out about that building. How about IL preservation society of some sort?

  8. Ryan Nichols

    A trip to you county surveyor’s office would be the place to start . they keep records not only of current property owners , but some antique records of previous owners as well . They can pull up the plat map for you .I have found 1875 county plat maps , things sure have changed , the old plat maps even show spring locations and other interesting tidbits like sand areas and mines the like . I’m happy that the owners have kept it up . Thank YOU for sharing .

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