Thursday, June 6, 2013

Some Very Old Tobacco Barns

As the tobacco barns survey winds down we were able to survey what we believe are two of the oldest tobacco barns in Pittsylvania County.  Both barns are owned by Jay Nuckols, who lives in a nearby house built in 1828.

Most of the approximately 260  tobacco barns surveyed have been of log construction, but one of Mr. Nuckols’ barns is a timber-framed barn joined together with mortise and tenon joints − the only tobacco barn we have seen during the survey of this type of construction.

Mr. Nuckols's timber-framed tobacco barn with mortise and tenon joints
This timber-framed barn is also much larger than typical tobacco barns and has six “rooms” while most tobacco barns have either 4 or 5 rooms. “Rooms” are the spaces between the tier poles where tobacco was hung on sticks to be cured.

This barn was originally a curing barn but was later converted into a pack house.  A pack house is a barn where tobacco is stored, stripped and graded after it is cured and  before it is sent to the market. 

Pack houses typically have a pit beneath them where tobacco could be transferred to make it more pliable before it was graded. A pit was at some point excavated under this barn for this purpose.

Interior of log tobacco barn showing rooms

Mr. Nuckols’ log barn was constructed of hand-hewn logs and appears to have been built slightly later than the timber-framed barn.  It is very large and also has six rooms.  The logs are massive with most measuring over a foot in width.

Interior of log barn showing the massive logs used to construct it
Mr. Nuckols recalled that his Grandfather referred to this barn as the “prize barn.” Prizing is a term used to describe packing cured tobacco into hogsheads or other containers for transport.  A prize was a huge wooden screw used to tightly compress the tobacco. Mr. Nuckols is uncertain if the barn served as a curing barn first and later as a prizery; or if another, now gone, adjacent structure existed where the prizing took place.

Nuckols’ and his family’s residence, known as Whitefalls or Stonewold, was built by Edmund Fitzgerald, Jr. in 1828. The house is a one and a half story frame house sitting on a full English basement. Much of the interior woodwork is marbleized.

Stonewold, the Nuckols' residence

While the exact dates of construction of the tobacco barns are unknown; given their unusual characteristics and the nearby 1830s house, they most likely date to the early 19th century.
Two of the family pets playing near an antique kettle