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Photo and information from the 1979 book: “Wayne County: The Aesthetic Heritage of a Rural Area” by Stephen W. Jacobs with Photographs by David Plowden. Permission courtesy of the Wayne County Historical Society.
Homestead Farm dry houses, Sodus
The three tall peak-roofed units on the Sergeant Homestead Farm on Maxwell Road in Sodus were built to contain apple driers. Cored and sliced apples were placed on slatted trays and subjected to heat in order to dry them for preservation. Since the process was tedious and required a day’s work for each batch, many farmers and their families spent the off season drying their apple crop. By the mid-1830’s a domestic fruit dryer was in use which consisted of a set of drawers with slatted bottoms to encourage air circulation. These were pulled out on sunny days and shut up at night or in damp weather. By the 1880’s when the orchard boom hit Wayne County, dry houses were built with a furnace in the basement and a slotted floor above on which the apples were spread. The lowest structure of the group at Homestead Farm is of this type, with narrow boards used for horizontal siding and cobblestones in the foundations below. To assure satisfactory results, the thin layer of apples had to be turned over several times with a shovel, the fire had to be damped at intervals, and the finished product removed at just the right moment.
By 1904 the demand for dried apples from central and eastern Europe was at a peak, and there were 104 dry houses in Sodus township alone. The Sergeants added two tower driers of more advanced design. These have fieldstone basements, corner trim, and wider siding with tongue and groove finish. The evaporator at the right, to which a lean-to for a tractor has been added, is probably newer than the one attached to the original structure. Inside each square building is a smaller sixteen-foot-square brick kiln whose walls extend from the basement, where the coal fire was built, to the roof. A ratchet system is used to move trays with galvanized mesh bottoms from bottom to top. Each tray contained fifty or sixty pounds of apples and progressed gradually from the lowest slot on the first floor to the top one on the second. There power bleachers counteracted the effects of oxidation. The Homestead Farm dry houses were last used about 1930.