Too Pretty to Be a Scullery

This dreamy picture was uploaded by Glen Bledsoe, a gifted photographer on the Flickr platform. Glen used his photography skills to capture this charming historic scullery in the western United States.

I was so enthralled with the picture, that I did some detective work. This space is referred to as the “dish pantry” of the Bush House Museum in Salem, Oregon. The house belonged to pioneer entrepreneur and political influencer, Asahel Bush (1824-1913), and his family, from 1878 to 1953. Asahel Bush was the founding editor of the Oregon Statesman newspaper, 1851-1863, and co-founder of Salem’s Ladd & Bush Bank in 1868.

I don’t know what’s going on the other side of that window, but I want to find out!

Scullery at the Bush House in Salem, Oregon.
Dish pantry (scullery) at the Bush House in Salem, Oregon.
PHOTO CREDIT: Glen Bledsoe, Flickr

I was very curious about the dish pantry, and the window that connects to another room. I was able to find the Bush House Museum Youtube channel from their website (I’ve embedded the video below for your convenience). The museum created a virtual tour of the home due to the Covid-19 pandemic for school kids (and for pantry fanatics like me!). The kitchen and pantry tour begins at the 33:30 mark and the dish pantry tour begins at mark 43:30. 

The museum director, Ross Sutherland, explains that the dish pantry is separated from the food pantry by a window. The house pre-dates electricity, so the window allowed light to reach the interior room of the dish pantry. It was also a practical way for servants to pass dishes between the two spaces. In the video, Ross pops up on the other side of the window and starts explaining the space. Thank you, Ross, my curiosity of the little sink area is now satisfied!

Copper sinks were often used in Victorian mansions to offer a soft surface when washing fine china and dishware. The nearby glass-front cabinets offered storage for the china to keep them clean from dust and pests, but to show them off as well. The space is pretty much limited to one person doing the dishes, and I suppose that would be the “scullery maid.” The quaintness of the nook and the small size makes it very endearing. I love the detail of the decorative fabric trim on each shelf as well. This house truly treasures the details.

Dish pantries fascinate me because I have been trying to incorporate one into my own house. Hiding the dishes in new home design is getting creative, all thanks to the open concept design trend. Turns out, that there is a line to how open people want their homes to be. Homeowners want to show off their trophy kitchens, but they want to hide the mess of dishes. This scullery/dish pantry is what new kitchen design needs to aspire to: full on charm!

The museum director emphasized the common theme among all Victorian homes of a deep division between public and private spaces. This is evident in the fine furnishing and wallpaper seen in the parlor, the library, and the dining room, but not the working areas of the house.

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He also pointed out that the kitchen was not considered a gathering place as it is today, or for guests to enter into. Other private spaces such as the servants’s quarters are also noticeably simple and void of decor. I secretly would have loved to be a maid washing dishes in that special little scullery space, it doesn’t look so boring to me!

The links below offer more views of the dish pantry and food pantry, under copyright from another photographer. It helps you see a little better the relationship between the two spaces (and what really is happening on the other side of that window!).

Are you a dish pantry fan, too? Please share your insight, as we keep our eyes on this next prominent kitchen design trend!

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