Grabbing ice cream from the freezer or microwaving a bag of popcorn is something we take for granted, but the early residents of Rodgers Ranch faced many a challenge before modern kitchens became the norm. When the house was first built, a wood-burning stove would have been used for cooking (and keeping the house warm), and in the early 1900s, electrical ovens were a vast improvement. Recently, The President of Friends of Rodgers Ranch, Denise Koroslev, was excited to find a beautiful white and black enamel gas stove (circa 1930) at a garage sale for $50 (“Antiques Roadshow” anyone?), and it looks right at home at the ranch. The PH Rec & Park will have a gas line installed so it can be used to bake apple crisps once again!
We can’t imagine being without running water today, but homesteaders from the late 1800s like the Rodgers would have had to dig a well and install a windmill to pump the water, even before building a house. Denise speculates that since indoor plumbing and septic tanks were already in use by the late 1800s, a sink with running water could have been installed by Patrick Rodgers’ grown children around the time he died, in 1891.
While meats were smoked or cured to last, most foods on the ranch would have been eaten fresh daily. In the early 1900s, homes had blocks of ice delivered by ice men to keep items insulated in (the aptly named) ice boxes. A cold creek out back might have even been called into service to keep food containers chilled. The ranch’s current refrigerator was made around 1940 and is put into regular active use. You may even find freshly churned butter in there, courtesy of the ranch’s heritage programs.
The Diablo Valley Woodworkers volunteered their skills to create drawers and make various improvements to the existing Hoosier-style, built-in cabinet (circa 1920). They also made a new cabinet to go underneath the kitchen sink. A board member of FORR as well as general contractor, Steve Wallace, and his crew removed the old sheet rock and linoleum from the kitchen floor, repaired the underlying wood floor and painted it an earthy brown to match the rest of the first floor. They also restored the cabinet, repaired the walls, replaced the kitchen door, and painted the room and cabinets a cheery buttermilk shade, all done at a substantial discount. Simple, sheer, cream curtains now adorn the two large sunny windows. The board has contributed to the décor by adding authentic appliances and utensils such as a toaster, ice cream and butter makers, and meat grinders, from the time frame between 1915 and 1940.
These improvements were made possible through generous contributions. Last year, Kathy Watson, the local regent of the Anne Loucks Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, presented Friends of Rodgers Ranch with a donation of $1250, and David and Adrianne Roe of Leading Edge Pest Management donated $1240. Visitors are invited to come see the restored kitchen, and kids participating in the upcoming summer Round Up camps can look forward to activities like churning ice cream or making lemonade in the “new” old kitchen! For more information on Rodgers Ranch, visit www.rodgersranch.org.