Michael Olmert Gives Two Talks

May 8, 2014

In April, Michael Olmert gave two talks--one on colonial coffee house culture, and the other titled "Architecture and Meat: Building, Working In, and Living with the 18th C Smokehouse."

On April 16 Michael spoke at the Montpelier Mansion, a 1781-85 plantation house in nearby Laurel, Maryland on the idea of coffee and coffeehouses. He unpacked coffeehouses as places of discussion, deliberation, anger, and sedition. Among other attractions, the coffeehouse was both a library and a play-ground as well as a way-station on the road to parliamentary democracy. He'll also talk about the research that went into the restoration of Charlton's Coffeehouse on Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg.

On April 23, the feast of Shakespeare and St. George, Michael spoke at Tudor Place, a 1805-09 house and grounds in Georgetown, D.C. The talk was mainly to celebrate the restoration of their original smokehouse. He spoke about the role of the smokehouse in a society dependent on slavery and servitude, as well as the architectural and cultural forebears of this small-building type.

For a thousand years, the work of a “meat house” changed little. Starting from medieval illustrations and working its way to the pyramidal-roofed smokehouse at Tudor Place, Professor Michael Olmert discussed the basic design of these structures and the purposes they served. The author of Kitchens, Smokehouses, and Privies: Outbuildings and the Architecture of Daily Life in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic, he placed the smokehouse in context in the Tidewater region in the 17th through the very early 19th centuries, examining their standard design elements, and imparting key tricks to identifying these essential early American structures.