As the opening of the Armoury site draws closer, we thought it might be interesting to include a blog entry that focused on the Armoury kitchen furnishings. This past year, the curators have worked on researching and acquiring authentic objects to furnish this unique kitchen. The Armoury kitchen is unlike any of Colonial Williamsburg’s other furnished kitchens in that it was used to prepare massive quantities of food for the Armoury’s 40 workers!
How did we decide what objects to place in the kitchen? Since we do not have an inventory telling us for certain, we can only make an educated guess as to which objects were really there during the Revolutionary War. There was very little archaeological evidence left intact around kitchen to suggest which objects were used there during the Armoury period. Instead, we allowed James Anderson’s account book (owned by the DAR library and transcribed by Master Blacksmith Ken Schwarz) to help us understand how the kitchen was used, and which objects would have been essential to Anderson’s operation.
From the large quantities of salted meats and flour coming to the Armoury, it became clear that the Armoury worker’s diet closely resembled the common soldier’s daily military ration. Animal bones recovered by our archaeologists and analyzed by zooarchaeologist, Joanne Bowen, helped to identify cuts of meat that were prepared in the Armoury kitchen. Many of these cuts were tough and were likely stewed, suggesting both a method of cooking…and the pot to cook it in. In addition to large stews, the Armoury cooks were certainly baking bread for the men. Even though we have not yet found archaeological evidence of a bake oven on the site, it would have been much cheaper to make the bread on site than to purchase it. We made the decision to order a dough trough and iron and wooden bread peels to indicate the large scale bread production that likely took place right outside of the kitchen.
Due to the fact that the Armoury Kitchen will be fully functioning, with cooking demonstrations for our visitors, we are unable to furnish it with antique objects. All objects needed for installation had to be ordered and reproduced for the kitchen. But we are incredibly fortunate to be able to work closely with the Historic Trades department; using antique prototypes from the Colonial Williamsburg collection, we have been able to produce some of the most authentic reproductions possible. The joiners made the kitchen table and pine press, the blacksmiths made all of the iron objects for the fireplace and cooking equipment (andirons, tongs, shovel, trammel, pot hooks, flesh forks, spoons/ladles), the coopers produced barrels, wash tubs, and buckets, and the basket weavers made utilitarian baskets to hold everything from vegetables to flatware for the table. We did have to order some items from outside vendors, including tinware, which was made by Master Tinsmith, William McMillen and the stoneware storage containers, which were ordered from Westmoore Pottery in North Carolina. Since the Armoury workers were surrounded by and working with metal, we believe that tin cups and plates were used by Armoury workers at the table. Similarly, other tin forms -funnels, graters, canisters, and coffee pots- likely saw heavy use in the kitchen. These items were cheap and quickly made in the Armoury tin shop next door.
We look forward to installing kitchen furnishings in the Anderson kitchen on the morning of Friday, March 30th, just before the Armoury’s (March 31st) opening. We hope you will watch via the Roving Webcam and enjoy behind-the-scenes fun as the curators install these objects in the kitchen. Our Historic Foodways department will begin cooking demonstrations in the Armoury kitchen the very next day on March 31st. We can’t wait to see what our talented staff in Historic Foodways cook up for the Armoury workers next week!
-Submitted by Amanda Rosner Keller, Assistant Curator of Historic Interiors and Household Accessories