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The Homestead and House

Very few examples of the traditional homesteads associated with the Dutch colonization have survived in Ziemia Łęczycka. Paradoxically, all of them are located near Łódź. It is very difficult to describe the Olęders' material heritage and carry out its typological analysis relying on such small sample of traditional solutions. Nonetheless, such an attempt seems worthwhile even considering the limited scope of material at hand.

A single-building homestead is the most characteristic architectural feature of the Dutch colonization of Ziemia Łęczycka. This type of building housed all chief elements of a homestead, such as: a home and a cowshed with a stable. This most common, multi-element house was based on the Frisian house design introduced by the first colonists. The layout and function of this type of building were closely related to the type of terrain, on which the farms were operating. The homesteads were located on marshy terrain with shallow deposits of ground water; therefore, such an arrangement was necessary to accommodate people, animals, as well as their food supplies under a common roof[1]. Barns were not included under a common roof, most probably, due to the late introduction of Dutch settlements in this area. Barns were situated apart closing a homestead from the opposite side of the entrance gate. The oldest authentic homesteads, which were erected in the second half of the 19th century, have solid outbuildings detached from a residential section: a barn, a coach house, a pigpen, a cellar, and other smaller buildings.

The plots, on which the homesteads were established, were usually square or parallelogrammic with shorter sides facing the road.

In the case of settlements located near or next to a road, houses faced the village road with their gables; alternatively, in the case of dispersed settlements, homesteads were linked to the main road with access driveways.

Sporadically, homesteads were located on artificial hillocks and more frequently, on natural rises. Buildings were surrounded with picket fences, which were subsequently replaced by wire net fences.

A cottage described in literature as lined-up, German, or Langhof is the only form of a Dutch house in Ziemia Łęczycka. A building of this type housed both the residential and the farm (cowshed) sections under a common roof; the components were lined up one after the other. This is the oldest and the simplest form of a building characteristic of this colonization.

Such a layout included two interconnected sections: the residential one and the farming one, which were independent in terms of communication. The residential section was always located from the side of the road, while the farming one, on the yard side.

As a rule, the interior of Dutch houses in Ziemia Łęczycka had a single-bay, two-, or three-axial layout with repeated variant pattern. The main entrance (the yard side) was located in the front wall and led to a single-exit hallway, which also served as a kitchen (the second kitchen stove was located in one of them) The central part of the residential section (located at the intersection of walls of four rooms) was occupied by the fire system, which included: a chimney with a narrow duct located at the foundation level, one kitchen, stoves, and heaters. The chimney was made of brick, bonded with lime, while other elements of the fire system were made of bricks or tiles. If a building contained more than two rooms, an additional stove was placed at the intersection of the internal walls. This stove was connected to the chimney with a smoke duct running over the ceiling. The residential interior was generally divided into three spaces: a hallway/kitchen, a proper kitchen, and one or two rooms situated around the fire system in a single bay and three-span arrangement.

Due to the fact that the farming and residential sections were located under a common roof, the residential section was separated from the farming one with a wall with two doors or one double door, which protected the kitchen and rooms from transfer of dirt and inflow of undesirable smells. All spaces had rectangular, four- and six-pane (rooms and kitchens) windows. The entrance to the residential section had only one door.

A part of the residential section had a basement. The entrance to the basement was located in the hallway or kitchen. Walls of the basement were made of fieldstones or brick and this space was used for storing agricultural produce that was to be consumed on daily basis.

The external entrance to the farming section of the building was also located on the yard side, while the internal one was located in a hallway and was situated asymmetrically. The entrance to a loft was located next to this internal entrance. In a cowshed, stalls for animals were arranged on one side of a passageway, while pig pen was sectioned off at the end. A canal, which carried out liquid manure, was located along the passageway.

An annex was frequently added to a gable wall of the farming section; it was used as a woodshed, storage, or even a coach house. The annex was planked, and it was equipped with a door facing the yard.

A loft was an important element of a building. However, in Ziemia Łęczycka the loft lost its original significance and function typical of a barn. Nonetheless, a part of agricultural produce, for example, seed grain has been stored in that space.

Up until the interwar period, wood was the most important building material in Ziemia Łęczycka.[2] This material was used for both houses and outbuildings. But, clay, stone, and brick were also used, especially for outbuildings.

The foundation of a home (residential section) was made of fieldstones or bricks bonded with a lime or cement-lime mortar. Ground sill was made of sawed pine logs with a 20 x 24 cm cross-section. In the lengthwise direction, it was connected by bevelled or oblique scarf joints, which were reinforced with dowels and at quoins connected by complicated timber joints.

The walls were made of pine or stone, which was smoothly plastered on both sides. The walls had a corner-notched or a log-post structure and were connected at quoins by dovetail joints with protruding log ends (4-8cm). They were stabilized with oak dowels driven into hand-drilled holes every 20-30 cm. The walls were sealed with moss. Usually, the external surfaces of the wooden walls retained their natural color. Window and door frames were the only painted elements. The color patterns frequently drew on the pre-war designs.

The ceiling boards, connected by a tongue and groove joint, were nailed to the ceiling joists from the top. This structure occurred in both the residential section and cowshed. The ceiling joists that protrude beyond wall faces were not decorated. Planks, called zasówki, which cover the eaves area, were attached to these joists from above. The eaves area was also created by planking the raft ends from outside.

The truss work in preserved buildings has a rafter-collar beam structure, which in one case (masonry building) is reinforced with queen posts. Rafters were connected by scarf joints reinforced with dowels and rested on a purlin or on a wall coping. Roofs were of medium size and were covered with roofing paper and partially thatched. It is most probable that thatching was the traditional method of covering roofs. Roof gables were planked with vertical boards without any decoration.

The residential section had white pine floors resting on floor joists. The floorboards were connected by either butt or tongue-groove joints. The floor in hallways was sometimes made of clay and in the interwar period, of cement. In farming buildings the floor was usually made of hardened mud; only passageways in cowsheds did have cement floors.

Buildings were equipped with either single or double windows, which were installed in vertical posts (or the wall), in decorative chamfered casings (ościeżnicowo-krosnowa structure). The windows were either single sided or double sided, had four or six windowpanes and were suspended on smith-made hinges and had either smith- or factory-made hasps.

Doors were installed in structural posts (or in the wall) on the smith-made hinges; door frame boards were decoratively bevelled. They were equipped with rim or ratchet locks, or were closed directly with a hasp (in the farming section). Doors had a frame-panel or batten structure. The frame-panel doors were installed only in residential sections, both inside and outside (the entrance door). Batten doors were installed exclusively in the farming section.

[1] W. Marchlewski, Przyczynek do dziejów osadnictwa olęderskiego w środkowym biegu Wisły w XIX-XX w. (do 1945 r.), "Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej", vol. XXXVI, 1988, no. 3, p. 510.
[2] J. Lech, Tradycyjny dom chłopski i jego użytkowanie na obszarze środkowej Polski, Kultura wsi Polski środkowej w procesie zmian. Vol. 2, Manuscripts and Materials of the Ethnographic Museum in Łódź, Seria Etnograficzna no. 20, Łódź 1979, p. 17.

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