The Wash House


I don’t know how old the wash house is now. It’s been standing behind the old farmhouse as long as anyone still alive can remember. The farmhouse is 100 years old. Huge steel wash tubs and old-fashioned washboards testify to its use in years past. My great-aunt Ruby was doing her wash there before the days of electric machines—and probably long past them as newfangled contraptions come slow to the country.

The wash house is going to be torn down soon. As with anything that gets torn down over there, I argue and plead with my cousin not to, then he tells me it has to be done because it’s diseased, dying, falling down, or whatever fits the occasion. Then eventually I have to give up and move on to getting a piece of it to save, as with the maple tree that was taken down recently.

The old apple tree was cut down last week, too.
My cousin told me for three years that he was going to cut down the maple tree before he did it, so I was shocked when I found out the apple tree was down and he hadn’t even announced it. I figure he was skipping that part of the equation where I argue and plead with him not to do it. I’ve already been there and done that with the old wash house, so now I’m down to putting my dibs in to salvage wood.
It’s really cool wood. Perfect. Old and split in places, chipped paint, the works. Depending on how much can be salvaged, I’ll make a little table, or even a small garden shed. I can use smaller pieces for craft projects.

I’ll still miss the wash house, though. People don’t build wash houses anymore; they build laundry rooms. Not saying I want to start washing clothes by hand, but–
I’ve never loved a laundry room as much as I love that wash house.


  1. anne says:

    Oh, what a shame!!
    I would love to have the washhouse on my farm property.


  2. Dawn says:

    How lovely to have roses by the door!

  3. CindyP says:

    Yes, what a shame that it must go…….but wood doesn’t hold on forever. :no:

    Build a frame with some of the salvaged wood and insert a black/white picture of the washhouse, something you can always look at. Has everything been salvaged from the inside? Those tubs would look wonderful on the front porch with pots of flowers in! And to have those roses!!! :happyflower:

  4. Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife says:

    That’s too bad!! I look at that wash house and think about what a cool studio it would be. It would take a little elbow grease and it would be wonderful. That is, unless it’s degraded to such a point that it’s in danger of faling down. That’s the state of affairs with many of the barns and outbuildings in our area. They are disintegrated due to lack of use.

    – Suzanne, The Other Suzanne

  5. Box Call says:

    Save all the wood you can off of it Suzanne. CindyP’s idea of a picture frame is one great use of old wood. I did the same with some old horse barn wood that, as kid, my dad had my brother and I tear down. I wish I hadn’t burned as much of it as I did because I need a new shed and old barn siding may last for several generations. It is usually just the bottom parts that rot. As much as I had to move that wood over the years I wish I still had it around; it becomes a part of your history. Heck I would like to find some new poplar siding now. Anyone know of anyone that cuts it anymore?

  6. Mel says:

    What a lovely washhouse, so sad to watch all these memories go away. Perhaps, your cousin would be willing to relocate the washhouse to your backyard. Knowing that your ancesters did their laundry in this very washhouse, is reason enough to try and preserve what is left. :shocked:

  7. Linnet says:

    The wash house sure does have a lot of charm. I have to say I like my washer and dryer though, especially after two years of having to use a less-then-clean laundromat.

  8. Diane says:

    The wash house is a neat building. I can see why you would not want it torn down. Is there no way of fixing it??

    The idea of taking the wood and using it is a great idea. There is enough there to make a smaller building. Or a nice table. Picture frames, a cabinet, shelves.

    Oh how I hate to see neat old buildings go away.

  9. DragonLady says:

    Too bad about the wash house and the apple tree. I would never allow anyone to cut down a tree during the spring or summer unless it was ready to fall on a house. There are too many nesting animalss that shouldn’t be harmed.

  10. Jenna says:

    Careful what you use that old wood for…100s of years of paint…one layer’s bound to have some lead in it??

  11. Lynda Dunham-Watkins says:

    So difficult to watch the old go. Old everything and anything. Old us. At least part of it can be recyled!!! Wish we could! My grandma had an old wash pot that she heated water in and washed the clothes. They had hard lives.

  12. Anita says:

    Grab that thermometer! That’s classic Americana! And probably full of mercury, but you take the good with the bad.

  13. Carolina Trekker says:

    Wonder if your Historical Society would like to rescue the Wash House. It has alot of character. Hope he changes his mind.

  14. monica says:

    You could make a neat coffee table for the porch with the salvaged wood. I think it would be a good idea to put a glass top over it to prevent water damage when cups are set on top. Picture frames to hold all the picture memories of the old farm would be a nice touch.

    The house we had when I was little had a summer kitchen. People used to not have air conditioners and did not want to heat up the house when they were canning. I have many memories of finding treasures in there.

  15. heidiannie says:

    I can sympathize with you about the washhouse. We had a carriage house on our old farm property in Ohio, and when my mom sold the house the FIRST thing they did was to tear it down to put up a horse barn. I was in my early twenties then and I still growl when I think about the stupidity of forward thinking people!

  16. Leah says:

    It is sad to see the old wash house go. It’s a testimony of those who built it,washed tubs of laundry in it,and played in it. I hope you get a picture frame for it out of it or a piece of furniture to remember it by.

  17. Carol Langille says:

    Why do things have to be torn down? Trees, I understand if they are diseased and in danger of falling on someone’s house…but a washhouse that has been there for so long?? Can’t your cousin just…you know….fix it? Or maybe do like log cabin recontructionists do. Number each piece as it comes down and then put it back together….on YOUR PLACE, Suzanne!!!!
    Think of it….storage or your own writing studio that you can decorate for all the holidays and have your kitties come curl up on the little couch you’ll have in there and your Giant Puppy can visit and you can store cookies there for everyone…..See???? Call your cousin now, please?

  18. Mim says:

    Depending on the size…could you move it to your place?? Put a strap around it and even it needs a little work to sturdy it up again when you get it to your place, the possibilites are unlimited for its use… You lucky dog. :ladybug:

  19. Miss Becky says:

    Alright, I see a movement forming here. What’s it gonna take to save the wash house? Your cousin must be susceptible to some sort of bribe…hmmmm…
    PIE??? :bugeyed:

  20. Heidi says:

    That doesnt look so bad!!! I have seen MUCH worse!!! btw – your package was sent today.. :)hubby wanted to do somthing extra to it.. *grin*

  21. Lola-Dawn says:

    I hate to see old buildings torn down too. Your last line, I’VE NEVER LOVED A LAUNDRY ROOM LIKE I LOVED THAT OLD WASH HOUSE, really says it all. A wash house is a PLACE with history and feelings attached to it. A laundry room is just a location within something that might not be permanent and sure as heck doesn’t raise pleasant emotions. Can you tell I still miss the old bath house on the property I grew up on? Now seriously, don’t get me started on seeing old trees cut down!

  22. Linda says:

    I hate to see old buildings torn down or old trees cut. I hope you can at least get some of the wood from it.

  23. Jordan says:

    It doesn’t look in bad shape at all. I think your cousin just has plans for the space. *g* I hope you can salvage everything out of it. Never know when you might need one of those wash tubs and clothes wringers.

  24. maryann says:

    I agree with saving the wood if you can for other projects, like making a garden bench. If the 2×4’s are good what about a wooden wishing well? Did you get any of the sugar maple tree stumps for the goats to climb on? Or the apple tree? When we used to smoke deer meat up north I would trim up the sugar maples and apple trees to use the wood. Of course we did it on a huge BBQ pit that used a steel drum barrel cut in half for the cover. When dad and the other guys used to go out deer hunting us girls would sit there and whittle the branches for smoking. Got us out of doing cleaning chores. Luckily I didn’t live up there year round so for me it was fun.

  25. Lisa Carper Stott says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the washhouse too! I am on the same level as you are. I have a piece of the old Amma United Methodist Church that I saved along with hymn books and a Bible. It burnt the very same night. My dream is to win the lottery, buy as much land as I can somewhere in Roane County, WV. I will build my dream home and I will use reclaimed wood. I will have different rooms named from different families of Roane Co. who let me salvage old wood from barns and such! I will probably always dream because I was born a loser! I never win anything!

  26. Kim W says:

    Can’t blame you. Laundry rooms don’t have the character of wash houses.

    Blessings from Ohio…

  27. Estella says:

    There are so many things that can be done with old boards—-they make great picture frames.

  28. monica says:

    Please disregard my previous response: PUT YOUR FOOT DOWN!!!!!

    First the trees, now the wash house, what is next: The cute little red and white farmhouse. Boy!!! Thank goodness I had more coffee!!!! Be stronger than what you are with the rooster! He is teaching you to be mean and stick up for yourself! don’t back down! 52 seems pretty handy! Just think of the room to process your wool!

  29. robin says:

    get down there and claim all you can! door knobs/window panes/wood/shelving……even the rose bushes! build one on the new farm…or just something that will remember the wash house…something that will keep the memories…fresh as that sweet smelling flapping in the breeze of long ago laundry day wash!

  30. SuzieQ says:

    It’s a shame that these reminders of the past have to go. What in the world will future generations have to wax poetic about? A laundry room with a washer and dryer? How boring and uninspiring. I have a love of old abandoned buildings. :heart:

  31. JenniferB says:

    I think the old washboards would be cool too!

  32. Catherine says:

    Have you looked into the options/cost of having it moved, Suzanne? Maybe if you approached your cousin with the idea he’d understand what it means to you. Good luck.

  33. Darlene says:

    If you do take the wood home, make sure you don’t get it near your new house. It does look like some type of termite or beetle has been chewing on the bottoms of the wood and if it gets near new wood, they can then build a colony in the new stuff.

    I too love old buildings of any sort. I LOVE the smell of very old buildings. Garages, barns, and wash houses alike have a wonderful musty smell to it.

  34. Cousin Sheryl says:

    Please Folks! Don’t make Cousin Mark (my husband) the villain of this piece! He is a pack rat, preservationist and history buff, extroidinaire! (sp?) You should see the stuff that he WON’T get rid of! THE BARN IS SAFE!
    The Wash House floor and sills are rotten and the building is getting ready to break in two. For safety reasons, it has to go. My husband will undoubtable find somewhere to store the wringer washer (he will probably restore this to working condition and show it off at antique tractor/engine shows) and other items inside. There is an old baby crib in there, too. We will find some keepsakes and wood for Suzanne!
    She will get several “goodies,” I’m sure.
    We wish that we didn’t have to tear it down either.
    The apple tree was diseased and getting ready to blow over in the next storm (on TOP of the Wash House). There were no apples on it and no bird’s nests that we noted.

    Best wishes too all!

  35. Leslie says:

    If it were me, I’d love to pick it up and move it to where your living now. So much ‘family’ in it. To bad your cousin doesn’t feel the same. Take it roses too. You can keep that going as a family heirloom. That’s what I’ve done with my grammas Fern Leaf Peonies.

  36. Helen Pearce says:

    We always called the laundry the wash house growing up i remember getting my fingers caught in my Nanas old ringer (thats what we called the old machines in Australia ) i also remember chickens hanging upside down with no heads dripping into the old cement trough ready to be plucked it all seemed so normal chickens running around with no heads on back then.
    i loved my childhood
    imagine if that old wash house could speak what tales it would have to tell *soft smile*

  37. vicky says:

    my grandparents had a wash house…i can still smell the soap and feel the warmth of going in there! i have always wanted one…i hope u can save yours.

  38. zteagirl71 says:

    Sorry y’all, but old and rotten buildings that can’t be saved have to be torn down, but that doesn’t mean the memories have to go with it. You could even make a replica of it, and frame a picture of the old place using salvaged wood, and hang it in the new “wash house” which could be used as a shed- just a thought.

  39. zteagirl71 says:

    I’m sorry but I just read some of the comments and they are rather amusing. 😆 Yes, the old building is so very charming to our eyes and has a history, and may even evoke strong emotions, as strong as the soap they used to clean clothes back in the day, but come on…what’s with bagging on laundry rooms? My grandmother used to wash clothes by hand and according to her it sucked big time, especially with a large family. And I can confirm that estimation since we used to have to wash clothes by hand when I was a young lass living out in the boonies. So, thanks to experience over nostalgic naivete I’ll take my laundry room any day of the week over a wash house. 😀

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