By Joseph F. O’Gorman

The Vanishing Landscape and Architecture of the New England Tobacco Fields

A traveler along the banks of the Connecticut River will be struck by the number of long low sheds rising from the fields as if they are an extension of the landscape. A building type shaped by necessity that grows more beautiful with use and age, these are tobacco curing sheds, mute witnesses to a slowly vanishing agricultural tradition and a thriving economic boom of the last hundred and fifty years.

Surprisingly, the Connecticut River valley was once a major producer of cigar leaf tobacco. One of the plants whose cultivation was learned from the native Americans, tobacco was the main crop of many old Yankee farmers and, after them, the Slavic newcomers. The need to season the “Indian weede” gave rise to the structure of the drying barns, a vernacular style unique to its time and place. Just as a picture can throw light on an entire world, so can these drying sheds open a window on a way of life that is fast receding.

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