McGuffey House Architecture: Outbuildings and Setting

1928 Barn

1928 Barn

Given the fact that systematic, archaeological excavations have not yet taken place on the grounds, we cannot say with any accuracy what and where outbuildings would have stood. It is almost certain outbuildings did exist over time. Accounts, illustrations, maps and photos indicate the presence of what appears to be a small barn and lean-to shed immediately south of the house along Oak Street [1875 Atlas]. Town dwellers, even affluent ones, customarily had chickens, possibly a horse, and even a milk cow on the grounds. W. E. Smith noted McGuffey was taxed in 1834 for owning three cows and a horse. Since McGuffey was an ordained minister he would have needed a horse to pull his carriage to churches in the area.


A smokehouse was almost certainly used to cure and smoke bacon, hams, and beef, while an outhouse and possibly a fruit cellar were also located on the property. Water from a cistern underneath the side porch would have been used for cooking and bathing purposes. This may have been supplemented with water supplied from a hand dug well. To date a well has not been located on the property. Other outbuildings may have included a wash house and storage shed.

Since municipal water did not come to Oxford until 1896 [the first water plant was on Bonham Rd], cistern and well water would have been the primary sources of water for most of the 19th century. Oxford did not have a gas works and the city's first electric light plant was not built until 1890, so prior to then oil and kerosene would have been used for illumination. Consequently, even though the McGuffey House was located in town it essentially was self sufficient for most of the nineteenth century.

In stark contrast to today, there was little traffic on Spring and Oak Streets. Lots along Oak Street were almost totally undeveloped prior to World War I and Spring Street was essentially the southern edge of town and the Miami campus. Throughout the 19th century both streets would have been unpaved and considerably narrower than the present day configuration. Spring and Oak Streets were not paved until after 1920. Until the advent of motor-powered vehicles the sounds of horses hooves and wagon and carriage wheels would have broken the silence of the college campus. Where Hamilton and Richard Halls are now located would have been gardens, open fields and pasture land. In essence Oxford was the quintessential rural Ohio town removed from the emerging industrial cities of Dayton, Hamilton and Cincinnati.

Stephen Gordon, Curator
Fall 2006

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