Old House Shed Additions

Throughout the center of Moorestown, NJ there are houses built in the late 1800s into the early 1900s with enclosed back porches. My Grand father called it "the shed." I have a friend who calls his house's on South Church Street "the shed." He is calling it what his grandparents called it as well. The house's siding is on the outside wall of the house inside the shed. The window of the shed usually does not match the house's windows but are of individual panes. The minimalist windows also suggests this would not have been so much of an enclosed back porch, although it was, but a shed.

Thses sheds, I am fairly sure came that way with the homes, and were not porches later enclosed. Perhaps it was a tax loop hole. You were getting an extra room which was not actually a part of the house. The walls were tongue and groove beadboard nailed vertically. Inside the room would get painted but you could see all the frame work.

In later years most people had the foundations filled in from just being brick porch supports thereby insulating pipes from freezing as well. These rooms usually became laundry rooms or laundry room/ downstairs bathroom.

There are a few older homes with lean to additions on the backs which had regular clapboard siding and were kitchen or bathroom additions. For the most part though Moorestown's old houses with lean to shed additions were just sheds built as enclosed back porches. Were they "mud rooms?" I think they were more than that. They stopped being added to houses somewhere around 1920. Why?

The Original Purpose of the Shed Addition-

The purpose is pretty much what it often later became (or stayed as over the years)- primarily a laundry room.

If a door to the outside exited the kitchen it either went directly to a porch, an entry or a service porch as it is called which was the laundry room. A good portion of the year you were going to dry the clothes outside afterward on clotheslines.

The first refrigerators (ice boxes) were not in the kitchens but in this porch so the iceman didn't have to come in the house for ice deliveries and I guess also it was cold out there in winter.

In our area three people so far that I talked to call these service porches "the shed." Sheds are used for storing items which these porches did but the name is also a name for a "lean to roof" so I would say that is where the name originates.

That is my research from the internet.
-Dennis Weaver

When It Stopped, Laundry Done in Basements-

Most or all of the houses I know of in the center of Moorestown, NJ which have shed additions do not, at least originally, have basement doors or Bilco style door entrances. Until the time when gas dryers were predominately used you needed a door to get outside to hang the laundry on the clothesline to dry on nice days. In winter or when raining you could have it on lines in the basement.

Maple Shade, the next town over, had its housing boom start in the early 1920s and there are very few houses with shed additions but all have basement doors. Not all laundry was done on back porches prior but I would say in the 1920s doing the laundry in the basement prevailed. Later on with gas dryers you didn't even have to go outside any more.

224 Mill Street, My Grandparents' old house

A young Dennis Weaver

You can see a clothesline prop in the photos. A clothesline prop was wood with a V groove cut at the top. The clothes line was strung between a hook on the corner of the house and a metal pole in the yard. A wooden clothesline prop or two would keep the wet sheets etc... from touching the ground when the line sagged. The clothes were hung on the line by clothespins which were kept in a hangable cloth bag. Clothes were carried in a basket. Later on the baskets were made out of plastic.

You can see the original brick porch support and the beadboard siding.

Sanborn map, Mill St. 1929. My Grandparents lived at 224 and I had friends at 231, 227 and 223 so I was inside those houses as well. 223 is a whole different story. OLD! Kitchen addition with a well under it he said.

Sanborn map, S. Church St. 1905. My family lived at 214 for about 5 years. My friends lived at 206 and 212 so I was in those houses as well.

My Personal Shed Memories-

At my grandparents' house on mill street there was no door in the doorway between the kitchen and shed yet there was a toilet there beside the washer and laundry sink which Grand mom never used but kept covered with a piece of plywood and used as a table.

If someone was in there using the toilet, whoever else who were at the kitchen table were simply polite and didn't look at them doing their business.

I was real young before the shed got redone.

Its walls and ceiling (slanted) were painted white and you could see all the 2 by 4 studs in the walls.

The shed contained the washer machine. There was no dryer until the very end times. as the house had oil heat and an electric stove and they had to have gas put in for a dryer. The clothes were either hung outside on clotheslines or in the basement. Actually my bungalow in Maple Shade was the same way.

The shed served as laundry room, half bath and pantry storage. Several metal cabinets with shelves and a homemade lower drawers cabinet as well. You could find everything in the shed from Pop Tarts to Elmer's glue and Plaster of Paris.

The kitchen had perhaps an old hutch alongside of the table which was on the outside wall. A lot of shelves or something . That corner always looked storagy because there was no other place to put anything really. No kitchen cabinets- base or wall cabinets. NONE.

The stove was modern but in its stove place on the inside wall in front of the chimney bump out. The sink was on the back wall. It hung on the wall but had front legs. It was white porcelain cast iron with a left side drain board and under it between the two or one leg and the wall ran a curtain.

Later my grandparents had the shed remodeled. The walls were insulated and sheet rocked and a ceiling at 8 feet high or whatever was added with a light on the ceiling. A new window was added and also a smaller Jalousie vent window near the toilet. Actually there was always a spray can of scent you sprayed after doing number 2 perhaps because of the kitchen shed relationship.

Later the kitchen was remodeled before the house was aluminum sided. I BTW saw Grand pop 3 stories up painting the house before on a ladder. VERY SCARY. The neighbor next door who got aluminum siding said He got scared last time he did it. The kitchen got new kitchen cabinets with base and top along outer wall and stove was moved and refrigerator put where old sink was (corner) and table were old stove was and the linoleum was covered by vinyl flooring.

Grand pop also used to always use the old words like sink was zink, refrigerator was the ice box. The living room was the parlor. The basement was the cellar. Grand pop always called the enclosed back porch "the shed." I think my Mom called ours on Church Street "the laundry room."

Our house on South Church Street the shed looked like an enclosed porch with I think gray painted inside walls and ceiling (porch gray).

There was a washer and Iam not sure if the dryer was in there or the basement and a small table with a aquarium tank which had 2 gerbils. There was an outside door between the kitchen and shed.

My best friend at 231 Mill St had an inside door between the kitchen and the shed and a toilet and bathroom sink and a washer and a dryer. All the room was so finished off that you never knew it was a shed except I think the ceiling was slanted. Then there was another room added for someone's daughter or son who lived there in past. My Grand mom knew the story.

Another friend later lived at 227 Mill street. His shed was paneled and carpeted and he used it as his computer room office.

- Dennis Weaver

Above are rough sketches, not exactly to scale, of some of the sheds I knew. The sheds on Mill Street are a bit deeper than the ones on S. Church St. and also my Grandparents' house the slanted ceiling was high enough to add in a regular ceiling. Also shown is my Grandparent's original kitchen layout. I was young then. On sleep over Saturday mornings I remember watching the real early Gene London shows on TV and eating sugar cinnamon toast which later on Pop Tarts replaced. The kitchen was the hang out room at my Grandparents' house.

Shed photos at my OneDrive

Some of these are from Real Estate websites.
If anyone has any shed photos to share let me know. My email is- dennisleeweaver@verizon.net
-Dennis Weaver