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Wayne County Root Cellars

As we travel around Wayne County, occasionally we see a root cellar built into a side hill. We have spotted one in Sterling Township, one near Lake Cadjaw, and another while riding the Stourbridge Line excursion from Honesdale to Hawley. The early settlers in Wayne County, as well as throughout the country, preserved fruits and vegetables which were grown in their gardens in order to have enough to tide them over until the following growing season. Canning was one way of preserving, but root vegetables and apples were stored in root cellars. Some root cellars were built into side hills. Most were made either adjacent to a home's basement or in a section of the basement that had an earthen floor and was best suited for storing potatoes, cabbage, carrots, squash, pumpkins, onions, beets and apples. The vegetables were either packed in well-drained sand (root side up) or stored on shelves. Apples and potatoes were stored in separate bins. The area was kept dark, with little humidity, at 35 to 40 degrees. Country homes at that time were built on stone foundations. They had no central heating system, and the rooms were heated with stoves or fireplaces. This meant there was little heat in the basements, ideal conditions to keep root vegetables and apples over the winter. Wayne County farmers used root cellars exclusively in preserving their apples and root vegetables until the 1930's when electricity came to the rural areas. Electricity also introduced the freezer, which became another way of preservation, but did not include all root vegetables. With furnaces and concrete floors in basements, gardeners were forced to make root cellars in other suitable areas, either in extensions of basements or in nearby side hills.

Text by Marge Hook and Gloria McCullough

Line Drawing by William Amptman

From 1993 through 2008 the Honesdale National Bank published an annual wall calendar, each featured 13 historic sites. The sites were chosen and researched by a committee of the historical society and artwork was commissioned to Judy Hunt and William Amptman by the bank.

This page was one month of the calendar and was made possible through the Wayne County Commissioners and a Tourism Promotion Committee’s Tourism Grant.