Lecture: Food Axis

Elizabeth Cromley, Northeastern University

To account for changes in the architectural form of American houses from the early seventeenth century to today, Elizabeth Cromley examines how food was preserved and stored, prepared and served, and where it was eaten.  She asserts that spatial changes have been driven by the requirements of food. Preserving food before the Civil War required smoke houses, spring houses, dairies, root cellars, and drying attics which shaped the nearby home landscape as well as the house interior. Those outbuildings lost their importance when appliances inside the house replaced them for cooking, storing, and preserving food, allowing the home landscape to support gardens instead.  Early twentieth-century home economists encouraged compact machine-like kitchens sized for only one homemaker, while early twenty-first-century kitchens often expand to serve as the social center of a house.

Cromley grounds her spatial analysis in the evidence of the houses themselves, measured drawings showing the allocation and contiguities of food spaces, inventories that record the furniture and equipment that supported food, published advice to housekeepers, and journals preserving householders’ and visitors’ experiences using houses.  She offers examples from a geographical range of states, and compares houses at diverse places on the economic spectrum—from architect-designed to frontier log cabin.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011

6:00 pm-7:30 pm

20 West Village F

Northeastern University
40A Leon St
Boston, MA 2115