Barns & Outbuildings of Wylie House

The Wylie family homestead can be interpreted by examining the various barns and outbuildings situated on the property between 1835 and 1895, the time between the home’s construction and the death of Theophilus A. Wylie.

Sketch by Theophilus A Wylie of his barn, ca. 1883

Much of what is known about these outbuildings comes from a memory map drawn by Theophilus A. Wylie’s grandson, Theo Wylie (Theophilus A. Wylie III). Theo’s memory map depicts his grandfather’s property circa 1875, although many of these structures likely date back to Andrew and Margaret Wylie, who first inhabited Wylie House and worked the 25 acre farm 40 years earlier. These barns and outbuildings help one understand the scope of daily life at Wylie House in Bloomington, Indiana in the mid-19th century.

Family correspondence and journals kept by the Wylies relate details of construction, use, and occasionally, the tragic loss of their buildings to fire.


The Wylie Homestead

Indiana University’s first president, Andrew Wylie, owned approximately 25 acres of land on which his home, Wylie House, was built in 1835. The homestead’s western and eastern boundaries correspond to what are now Walnut and Henderson streets and the homestead’s northern and southern boundaries correspond to what are now Smith and Second streets.

Wylie homestead property boundaries in 1835

The Wylie family homestead was a working farm. Hired help was particularly difficult to find for the first Wylie family, so much of this work was done by the Wylies themselves and their occasional student boarders. After Andrew’s death in 1851, Margaret Wylie lived at Wylie House until her death in 1859.


TAW III’s Memory Map

Andrew Wylie’s second cousin, Theophilus A. Wylie, lived at Wylie house with his family from 1859 until his death in 1895. Theophilus’ family remained at Wylie House until 1913. Theophilus’ grandson, Theo, drew a memory map in 1954 of his grandfather’s property circa 1875.

memory map of Wylie homestead ca. 1875, TAW III, 1954

From TAW III’s sketch we know that Wylie House outbuildings included:

• an ice house
• a smoke house
• a double-pen barn
• a log chicken house
• a carriage house
• two walk-in cold frames
• a large two-story utility building located east of the kitchen door

We know from family correspondence that the chicken house was converted from an old corn crib on the property around 1862.

The original Wylie barn was a double-pen barn. A double-pen barn is one in which two single units are joined together at the top with room for passage underneath. This allowed a farmer to pull his wagon under the barn for easy loading of hay into the hay loft.

A corn crib was a log granary used to dry and store corn. Their slatted design allowed air to flow through the crib to dry the corn inside. Corn cribs were built to be raised off the ground so that rodents and other pests couldn’t get inside through the slats. They were often located near livestock, as corn was a popular feed.

It is likely that most of the outbuildings dated back to Andrew and Margaret Wylie’s occupancy between 1836 and 1859.

The 1859 inventory lists eight horses, one mule, five hogs, and more than a dozen cattle. Since we know there was a chicken house, they must have also kept chickens.

The numerous outbuildings underscore the vast amount of work that was required to maintain a working farm—butchering, smoking and salting meats, gathering wood for the winter months, preserving foods, and laundering clothes.


The Wylie Utility Building

It is believed that Theophilus A. Wylie took this photograph in approximately 1890 of the east side of the house. Shown here are the well and the utility building.

The utility building just off of the kitchen was constructed during Theophilus A. Wylie’s time at Wylie House. He used the second floor of the building as his personal workspace. The sketch below shows his carpenter bench, weather observation window, lathe, and resting quarters. The first floor of the building was used by the family and hired help for storing wood for their stoves and fireplaces and for laundering clothes and cooking.

This sketch of the utility building, shown in the photograph, was drawn by Theophilus’ grandson, Theo Wylie, in 1954.


The Loss of Theophilus’ Barn

This sketch, drawn by Theophilus A. Wylie in 1883, shows his barn as it stood on Saturday March 17th at 6pm and the same time the next day after the barn burned to the ground.

Before and after sketch of TAW’s barn after it burned down in March of 1883.

Below is the transcription from his diary where he tells the story.

transcription made from 3 April 1881-6 September 1885, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

There are also two newspaper articles from the Bloomington Progress Vol. 16 (49) in March of 1883 that recount the arson, as many buildings were set on fire by arsonists that spring. The larger article, “Bloomington’s Bad Blaze” on page 3 chronicles a fire that was the most destructive in Bloomington’s history at that time. Andrew Wylie’s son, Reddick Wylie, lost property in the fire. The second article, “Another Fire Last Saturday Night” provides details about the burning of Theophilus A. Wylie’s barn.


Before and After drawings of Wylie House Out Building Fire, undated, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Before and After drawings of Wylie House Out Building Fire, March 1883, The Wylie, Boisen and Bradley Families Papers & Ephemera, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington

Wylie House, Yard with Out Buildings, undated, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

3 April 1881-6 September 1885, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Wylie House Docent Manual, 2011 ed., Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

Utility building photograph, 2005.003.1155, 1890-1898, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

TAW III’s memory map, 1954, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

Bloomington Progress, Vol. 16 (49), 21 March 1883.


Blog post written by: Sarah Rogers, graduate student

The History of Seed Saving

Here is a photo of a collection of seeds from

According to the Center for Food Safety, throughout the past 40 years, the U.S. has led a radical shift toward commercialization, consolidation, and control of seed. Prior to the start of industrial agriculture, there were thousands of seed companies and public breeding institutions. At present, the top 10 seed and chemical companies, with the majority stake owned by U.S. corporations, control 73 percent of the global market. Today less than 2 percent of Americans are farmers compared to 90 percent in 1810 (2012). Seed saving is crucial and the reason for crops every year. With the rise of modern agricultural practices, genetic crop diversity has declined. While seed saving may be a hobby to some, the saving and sharing of rare, heirloom, and native seeds has always been, and still is, an important part of our worldwide food security.  In agriculture and gardening, seed saving is the practice of saving seeds or other reproductive material from vegetablesgrainherbs, and flowers for use from year to year for annuals and nutstree fruits, and berries for perennials and trees. This is the traditional way farms and gardens were maintained for the last 12,000 years (Wikipedia, 2017).  Benefits of seed saving include: engaging in the cycle of life, preserving heirloom varieties, encouraging genetic diversity, and saving money. A few tips for storing seeds are: gather seeds and let them dry on newspaper for a few days. Mark seeds with a post-it-note so you remember what type of seed they are. Remember, if you want to save your own seeds, you’ll need to plant open-pollinated varieties. They’ll come back while hybrids won’t. Keep seed packets in plastic food storage bags, plastic film canisters, Mason jars with tight-fitting lids, or glass canisters. Once you’ve gotten your storing container, store in a cool and dry environment.  Store each year’s seeds together and date them because most seeds last up to about three years.


This post was written by Sarah Kihn on October 25, 2017.

An Introduction to Floriculture at the Wylie House

Starting this fall, Indiana University’s Wylie House Museum and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology began a joint bicentennial project that will be ongoing until 2020. The purpose is to discover more about IU Bloomington’s cultural heritage, protect local archaeological resources, contribute information to enrich the university’s mission, and to supplement the documentation and interpretation of campus history. The first stage of this joint project focuses on the Wylie House, which was built in 1835 and was the home of IU’s first president, Andrew Wylie, and his family. Research efforts are being made to expand more on what is currently known about the house gardens and 19th century floriculture as a whole and specifically relating to the Bloomington area.

“Wylie House”, around 1900, P0071638 – Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives

The resources currently being used to better understand Wylie House floriculture are the “Affectionately Yours”, a two volume compendium of Wylie Family letters, historic photographs from the Indiana University Archives Photo Collection, a sketch map drawn by Theophilus Wylie, Louisa Wylie’s essay on gardening, and various text sources outside of the Wylie House and IU Archives. These sources provide first-person documentation of the types of flowers and other plants that the Wylie family grew during their time living in the Wylie House. Smilax, fuchsias, geraniums, begonias, and roses are the flowers that are most often mentioned in the Wylie family letters. The letters also mention that the family often bought plants from a “Heinl” who gets imports from France, as well as trading for seeds with others from all over Indiana and from other states.

Another important aspect of this bicentennial project is uncovering more information about the garden “pits” that the Wylies had in their front yard. These “pits” were small shelter-like containers built into the ground to house plants during cold or bad weather so they didn’t wilt or die. There are a few photos of these Wylie House pits, as well as a drawing and mentions of them in the Wylie family letters.

Garden pit visible in right foreground in between house and stone wall. Cyanotype real picture postcard of Wylie House”, 1907 May, P0071637 – Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives

Today, the Wylie House Museum shares the life of the Wylies who lived there, mainly focusing on the second  Wylie family, Theophilius Wylie and his family. The Wylie House also has an heirloom seed-saving garden in which flowers, herbs, and vegetables that were grown in the Bloomington area prior 1875. In this way, the museum attempts to both accurately reflect the historic property as well as share these varieties and growing practices with the community. The exact varieties of all of the plants is a mystery we  hope to solve through this bicentennial project.



Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume I.” IUScholarWorks,

Indiana University, 2011,

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume II.” IUScholarWorks,

Indiana University, 2011,

The Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, Wylie House Museum, Indiana

University Libraries, Bloomington


This blog post by Bicentennial intern Maclaren Guthrie is featured on Indiana University’s Bicentennial website: