By Heather Gilreath

June 13th, 2023

Historic contractor Mike Faust and volunteer Heather Gilreath have recently completed a massive restoration of the Exchange Place kitchen, a reconstruction of the original detached log kitchen that stood behind the Main House in the antebellum era.

The current building was reconstructed in the late 1990s with logs from two local antique log cabins—the “Moody Cabin” from the Cook’s Valley community and the “Waterman Cabin,” which originally stood near present-day Home Depot off Stone Drive. In the twenty years since its reconstruction, the building suffered severe termite damage with several logs completely decimated. The recent restoration included replacing these damaged logs (24 in all), leveling the building, and expanding the porches. The Exchange Place Junior Apprentices helped with tasks like daubing and whitewashing.

The Original Kitchen

The only known description of the original kitchen at Exchange Place comes from William Alexander Stuart (1889-1976), grandson of James and Catherine Preston, who owned the property in the antebellum era. Stuart described the kitchen as:

…a log building that stood some distance north of the house, maybe fifty or sixty feet, and the door was on the side next to the house. It was a big room, one story…and it had a big fireplace on the north side, a very big fireplace with a crane… I think it was a typical old kitchen [with] a lot of old iron utensils of one kind or another… Probably the old waffle irons—we’ve got now an old set of waffle irons with long handles you separated and then put together.

The kitchen Stuart remembered was razed during the circa 1900 remodeling of the Main House during which a two-story “back el” addition was added to the rear of the house (later to be moved and restored as a caretaker’s residence). The 1990s reconstructed kitchen was outfitted with an expansive hearth and stone/brick chimney, two doors on opposing sides (rather than one in the gable end as Stuart recalled), and porch stoops.

In the newly restored space, the Eden’s Ridge Hearth Cookery Society prepares foods that the Gaines and Prestons might have eaten at Exchange Place in the antebellum era—including waffles made with irons much like the ones William Alexander Stuart remembered!