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Riverside – The Farnsley-Moremen LandingPark

Site No.:
Historic (ca.1820s -1930)
Riverside, Jefferson County
Museum, tours, educational programs
7410 Moorman Road, Louisville, KY 40272
(502) 935-6809

Rear of Farnsley-Moremen House

Riverside – The Farnsley-Moremen Landing is an historic site along the Ohio River about 13 miles from Louisville in Jefferson County. Open to the public, the site features a restored 19th century farmhouse and detached kitchen, gardens, a visitor’s center and numerous special events and educational programs. Archaeology has played an instrumental role in the restoration of the 1837 main house and a detached kitchen. Since 1989, archaeologists with the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey have conducted excavations throughout the grounds, focusing on outbuildings from the historic era. This research is providing insights into daily life on a working farm, river travel and slave culture during the 1800s. Riverside has an excellent website with detailed information about its archaeology programs, history, visitor's center and special events.

Excavation of a slave or tenant house
Excavation of a nineteenth century slave or tenant house at Riverside, KAS 2009.


The history of Riverside centers on two families during the 1800s - the Farnsleys and the Moremens. Ebenezer Christopher first purchased the property in 1822, establishing a farm and ferry boat service with the labor of nine slaves. Christopher died in 1827. In time, the 200-acre estate was purchased by Gabriel Farnsley who built the ca. 1837 Greek Revival house seen today. A bachelor, Farnsley increased the farm to 415 acres, cultivating fruit trees, hay, oats, wheat and corn. Farnsley died in 1849. Most of his property was sold at public auction, including thirteen slaves. After a long court case, the Moremen family purchased the property in 1862. Alanson and Rachel Moremen increased the property to 1,000 acres, raising livestock and a diversity of crops with the labor of 23 slaves. The Moremen family would continue to own the property until purchased by Jefferson County for use as an historic site in 1988.

The Moreman family posing for a formal portrait
The Moreman family posing for a formal portrait, c.a. 1870; image courtesy Riverside.


Map of Outbuildings

Archaeological research at Riverside has been focused on the numerous outbuildings that once surrounded the main house during the 19th century. Plantations and farms typically included a variety of outbuildings that supported domestic and farm work, such as a kitchen, smoke house, washhouse, icehouse, outhouse, barns, sheds, and slave and tenant houses. None of the outbuildings at Riverside survived to present day. The identification and interpretation of the former outbuildings at Riverside has been an important part of understanding the life at Riverside during the nineteenth century and telling the story of the people who lived and worked there.

Map of outbuildings excavated at Riverside; Image, Riverside 2008.

Since 1995, archaeologists have used information from an archaeological survey, historic documents, and oral history to locate former outbuildings. Research of these buildings is conducted during an ongoing educational field trip for school children called "Building Blocks of History." See for more information on how to participate. Through this program, archaeologists have investigated several buildings, including the detached kitchen, the washhouse, the slave/tenant house, a barn, and brick kiln. See for more information and images.

Archaeological research at Riverside has become an important element to Riverside’s interpretation and presentation to the public. Through educational and public programs, visitors get to experience ongoing research and participate in the evolving interpretation of Riverside’s history. The information collected from the archaeological investigations is used to help understand the 19th century landscape of Riverside and to aid the interpretation and reconstruction of former outbuildings.


The archaeological findings at Riverside consist of a wide variety of features and artifacts dating from prehistoric Native Americans to present day. Features mainly associated with 19th century outbuildings include foundations, post holes, hearths, walkways, and a pit cellar. Artifacts include a variety of objects used in the construction of structures and in everyday activities by all the people who lived at Riverside during its history. Prehistoric Native American artifacts include stone tools; such as spear points, arrowheads, scrapers, drills, and the by products of their manufacture; and ceramic pottery fragments. Artifacts from the historic occupation include nails, window glass, bricks, ceramic dishes, glass bottles, eating utensils, buttons, marbles, smoking pipes, combs, rings, coins, cookware, doll parts, toy teaware, a clothes iron, animal bones, plant seeds, and wood charcoal.

The archaeological findings at Riverside are used to interpret the past and to educate in the present. Artifacts are used in educational activities at Riverside, as well as local schools and libraries. Professional archaeologists have used the information from the outbuildings to compare to their own work at other outbuilding plantations. Although we have learned much about Riverside’s history, its former outbuildings, and the people who lived and worked there, there is still much that can be learned from the archaeological work. As more buildings are discovered and excavated, some of which were previously unknown, researchers are constantly reinterpreting the organization of and changes to the complex of outbuildings common to many 19th and early 20th century plantations and farms.  

Many of the questions that archaeologists ask concern how the plantation changed over time physically and socially? How did technology affect the use and placement of outbuildings on the landscape? What affect did the end of slavery have on Riverside, socially, economically, and physically? Also since a large amount of data has been collected, archaeologists are focusing their research more on the people who lived and worked in the outbuildings, such as the lives of slaves, former slaves, and tenants? What were their relationships to the Farnsley and Moremen families through time? What were their lives like?

Field School students working at site
The University of Louisville Fieldschool excavates a previously undocumented house, probably used by slaves and or tenants; Image, KAS 2008.




Artifacts from the Wash House
Artifacts from the Wash House, including a fork, brass hat decoration, brass rings, and clay marbles; image, KAS 2008.

Kitchen Reconstruction

The archaeological research at Riverside has led to the interpretation and reconstruction of a detached kitchen.  In 1995, Riverside and archaeologists from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey began to search for a detached kitchen, which were common to most 19th century plantations in the south, and was mentioned in Moremen family oral history.  The location of the building, its size, construction, and appearance were unknown from the oral history and written records.  Thus, archaeological investigations were important to the discovery and interpretation of this important outbuilding.

The kitchen was perhaps the most important outbuilding associated with the main house on any plantation.  It was the place where most of the domestic work for the plantation took places, most important of which was the preparation and cooking of meals for the plantation inhabitants.  A variety of other domestic tasks, such as laundry, ironing, minding children, cleaning, and food preservation took place around the kitchen. The creation of the detached kitchen and the separation of many other household tasks from the main dwelling have its roots during the colonization of America in the late 1600s.  It has long been suggested that environmental factors faced by the colonists was a major reason for this separation. The drastically different environment of America, particularly in the southern colonies instigated the adaptation to the landscape in the formation of a complex of outbuildings that surrounded the main house.  For the kitchen, the heat of the summers and the odor of work inside were primary factors that led the removal of this important feature of the house to its own building.  Also, the abundance of pests that congregated around food sources, such as the kitchen, was an important factor in the removal of the kitchen from the main house.  In addition to the physical environment, changing social uses of kitchens and the institution of slavery also helped create the detached kitchen.  By the late 1700s, this new concept of American farm architecture had become a tradition and the detached kitchen was focal point of the outbuilding complex.

KAS archaeologists deduced that Riverside’s detached kitchen was most likely at the rear of the main house outside of the dinning room door, as was common on 19th century plantations.  Furthermore, a large amount of architecture related artifacts was recovered from the area during an archaeological survey of Riverside conducted in 1989 by the University of Kentucky.  Initial excavations in this area were conducted in association with several public archaeology weekend events and subsequent work by KAS archaeologists.  This work uncovered thousands of 19th century architecture and kitchen related artifacts, as well as portions of a large brick hearth.  Excavation of the entire kitchen area was completed during the “Building Blocks of History” field trip program.

Archaeological data was used to reconstruct the detached kitchen as it looked in the 1840s during Farnsley’s time at Riverside.  Since there was no description of the detached kitchen in oral history or written records, the archaeological data was used to interpret the basic structure of the building, such as its size, what it was made of, what kind of roof and floor it had, and where the windows and doors were located.  Based on the types and sizes of nails found at the kitchen site, it was learned that the kitchen was a wood timber framed building, with wood siding, shake roof, and flooring.  The window glass fragments were found concentrated in two main areas where windows were likely located.  And door hardware, such as a doorknob and lock assembly was found in the area where the door was likely located.

Once the basic structure of the kitchen was identified, architectural surveys of existing similar structures around Kentucky helped fill in the details of what the kitchen likely looked like.  In order to make the reconstruction of the kitchen as accurate as possible traditional techniques of construction were used, such as mortise and tenon joints for the framing, lime mortar in between the bricks, and hand split shingles.  The details of the reconstruction were as accurate as possible down to the direction of saw marks on the lumber and the use of replica square nails.

The use of archaeological data and the attention to detail make the Riverside detached kitchen one most authentic reconstructions of its kind.  Furthermore, the focus of public participation, programming, and education during the entire research and reconstruction process has made the research and reconstruction of this building an interactive experience for the public.  Since it is a functional kitchen, 19th century cooking demonstrations take place there continuing the educational focus at Riverside.

Continued archaeological research at outbuilding sites and additional oral history suggests that the Riverside detached kitchen may have been the first of three kitchens at Riverside over time.  After the first kitchen was dismantled in the 1870s, another detached kitchen was constructed at another location near the house.  Artifacts from the area consist of architecture and kitchen related objects from the late 1800s.  Finally the third kitchen was constructed attached to the house in the 1930s, demonstrating the change in technology of kitchen appliances that made a kitchen inside the house practical.

More information about the reconstruction of the Riverside detached kitchen can be found in the booklet Brining the Past into the Future:  The Reconstruction of the Detached Kitchen at Riverside, part of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey Education Series available from Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.

The kitchen site before
extensive excavations at
Riverside in 1995; Image, KAS.


Artifacts recovered from the detached kitchen
Artifacts from the detached kitchen, including hearth hardware (and iron part and pot hook), early to mid 1800s ceramic tableware, a metal toy tea cup and saucer, a bone handle fork, ceramic smoking pipe fragments and 1830s half dime coins; image, KAS 2008.


The brick hearth exposed during excavations at Riverside’s detached kitchen
The brick hearth exposed during
excavations at Riverside’s detached kitchen;
image KAS, 2009.



Reconstructed Riverside Kitchen
Exterior of Riverside’s reconstructed kitchen, image KAS, 2008



Lucy Ricketts demonstrates traditional cooking methods inside Riverside’s restored kitchen; image KAS, 2008.

Slave Culture

The archaeological research of outbuildings at Riverside has provided an opportunity for archaeologists to study buildings where slaves lived and worked.  Artifacts recovered from the investigation of these buildings have shed some light on the “hidden” lives of slaves during the Antebellum period. Archaeologists sometimes find objects believed to be associated with the personal and spiritual lives of slaves at sites throughout the southeast United States. 

These artifacts include x-marked objects, pierced coins, blue beads, crystals, artifact caches, and animal sacrifices.  X-marked artifacts, such as a pewter spoon handle recovered from the detached kitchen site at Riverside, are thought to represent the Bakongo cosmogram, an ancient spiritual symbol from western Africa.  Such artifacts have been found in slave sites at other nearby plantations in Louisville, such as Locust Grove and Farmington (See Farmington webpage). 

Archaeologists also find pierced coins and tokens, which were worn by slaves as amulets or good luck charms to ward off evil spirits. “It gives us insights into their religion, some of the conditions that they lived under, or some of the things that they tried to do under the oppression of slavery,” according to Jay Stottman, Archaeologist, Kentucky Archaeological Survey. “That’s an aspect of slavery life that we can’t get with some of the historical documents. An aspect of their lives, that they tried to keep hidden from the people that owned them.”

A pewter spoon handle, marked with an “X”
A pewter spoon handle,
marked with an “X,” recovered
from the detached kitchen site at Riverside, c.a. 1850s.



A pierced George Washington token
A pierced George Washington token from near a slave house site at Riverside, c.a. 1860.


Public and educational programming has been a part of the archaeological research at Riverside since it was developed as a museum in 1993.  Riverside offers a variety of opportunities for the public to participate in the ongoing archaeological research.  Riverside holds a variety of events each year where the public is invited to tour and participate in the archaeological excavations, such as the heritage festival and summer ice cream social. 

Riverside also offers educational opportunities for students and teachers.  The “Building Blocks of History” field trip program provides three activities for school children in one four hour field trip, including a house tour, a dig associated with ongoing archaeological research, and a brick making activity.  Teachers can learn how to use archaeology in their classroom and participate in a dig during an annual Project Archaeology workshop sponsored by Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.  For more information about the programming at Riverside See

Students assisting in research at Riverside
Students participate in public archaeology programs at Riverside; image KAS, 2008.



Riverside Website


Releted Resources


- Segment in Historic Archaeology: Beneath Kentucky's Fields and Streams

Curriculum materials

- KA Vol III Curriculum

- Bringing the Past Into the Future: The Reconstruction of the Detached Kitchen at Riverside,” KAS Educational Series booklet, 2003

- Riverside: The Restoration of A Way of Life, Exploring the History of a 19th Century Farm on the Ohio River, by Linn, Neary, 1998. (link to Riverside store page)

Professional Resources

Archaeological Research of the Riverside Detached Kitchen – KAS Research Report No. 4 (pdf)

Archaeological Research of the Riverside Washhouse Part 1– KAS Research Report No. 7 (pdf)

Archaeological Research of the Riverside Washhouse Part 2– KAS Research Report No. 7 (pdf)

Reconstructing the Past: Archaeology of the Riverside Detached Kitchen – Ohio Valley Historical Archaeology 1998 (pdf)


Last Updated 5/7/2013