What’s Cooking in the Kitchen?


Well, there may not be anything stewing on the coals (yet!), but the kitchen is getting a makeover! I’m Brenda Hornsby Heindl, summer intern and recent graduate of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, and I’m reassessing the furnishings, room use, and interpretation of the Southeast Dependency/Kitchen building.
After researching the restoration of the space in the early 1930s, I’ve been reading through original documents of the Lee family, period recipes, archaeological reports, and other eighteenth-century documents from the region. I’ve also been comparing the kitchen to other eighteenth-century sites (intact and archaeological) such as the Shirley Plantation, Menokin, Kenmore Plantation, Mount Vernon, and Montpelier. I recently returned from a research trip in Williamsburg, where I met with curators, archaeologists, and historic architects and architectural preservationists who helped me with assessing the context of an eighteenth-century kitchen. Because of Philip Ludwell Lee’s surviving 1776 probate inventory, as well as the strength of other Lee family records from that decade, I’m leaning toward a kitchen setting of the third quarter of the eighteenth century.
One of the most exciting things listed on the 1776 inventory is a chocolate stone! During a recent conversation with Frank Clarke of Colonial Williamsburg, I learned that there were two types of chocolate stones. Perhaps one day Stratford Hall will have a foodways program that includes making chocolate!

Did you know that Stratford’s kitchen likely once had a large closet space located near the hearth? After examining pre-restoration photographs, as well as a 1763 document mentioning materials stolen from the “kitchen closet,” the kitchen proposal will definitely suggest looking for evidence for that closet! (Look at the ceiling and wall to the left of the hearth in this pre-restoration photograph–see the outline where the plaster is missing?)
Working with curator Gretchen Goodell, my hope is to create an interpretative space that can be visited without an interpreter, but also a useable space for cooking demonstrations. Combining original sources, objects, and archaeological and architectural material will provide for an in-depth look at the kitchen of Stratford Hall.