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Compass Heading on old rural house sites?


New member

Can anyone advise if there was an average direction houses faced in the late 1800s? IE did they face north for the most part? I have located a late 1800s brick concentration in a very rural area and want to determine which area of the field would have likely been the rear of the house. The landscape has been disturbed quite frequently so it would be difficult to see any depressions from outhouses.


New member
Hi butonlicker, my memory is not so good but I remember reading somewhere that there was a general build pattern followed by most all folks way back when! We have to remember too that with clearing land and other monstrous jobs it took to settle a place that some patterns or habits would not have fit he situation so things likely fell in place in no certain pattern. I "think" they usually built facing East when they could so to catch the first rays of the sun in the morning. Just a little sun on a cold winter morning can warm a person's spirit as well as his bones. In some cases they may have built to face a prevailing SW wind in order to catch warmth in winter while hopefully getting some sun from the east. There were patterns people used but they would have depended much on weather and the geography of whatever area of the country they happen to be. Toilets were generally far enough but not to far from the house and usually not in the direction of the prevailing winds. SW quadrant of big oak trees saw more activity due to shade in summer. I'm sure there is more some where written on the subject , but much can be determined by us just studying on it and applying some common sense, same as they had to do back then. I spent lots of time with my Grandma when I was a kid on her farm and it was typical of an 1800's farm. Self contained, self supporting, Lots of animals, cows, horses , mules, dogs ,hogs, chickens etc. Wood stove /fire place for heat and cooking, no running water, no electricity , no indoor plumbing (toilet). Too really confuse things now when I recall it, the original old log house still stood, but fallen in to some degree ,was used for storing the pork barrel. It faced North, while the newer house faced east, so the old house did not fit the pattern. There was a reason though and I would think it to do with easy access to farm activity, fields, garden and chores. Barn was to the NW at front of house, mule lot at front of house, with garden on the west, closest fields and smoke house to the south , road was directly to front of new house.Old house had porch on north and south ends so it caught some sun on the south end. Toilet was about S by due W, but the prevailing winds pattern probably did not matter that much in that region. Only time you got a breeze in S Ark. was when a tornado came through. Please pardon my rambling but thought that might help. HH, Charlie


New member
In my area I can give you a survey of eight rural houses constructed in the late 1800's that I have metal detected at. Six had main/front entrances facing south and two faced east. This is in North Dakota where stiff north and northwesterly winds are common. Generally outhouses where directly North of home around 200 ft. with door facing south. Rural school constructed in early 1900's had entrance facing south with one outhouse north of school with door facing south and another outhouse east of school with door facing west. Hope this helps. Oh yeah. Don't forget to look on each side of the house because picnics in my area where generally held on east and north side of homes where there was more shade on hot summer days. Also, find driveway into home. People getting on and off wagons and in and out of cars tended to lose change. Also people walking up the drive to the mailbox often carried change to pay for stamps, etc. Also check area leading to outhouse. When you had 200' to go and nature was calling things tended to fly out:). Okay. I'll shut up now. Hope I helped out a bit.


Yup, Southeasterly is the preferred front facing position. I have seen historic fire insurance maps from the late 19th century where rows of houses all faced southeast. Peace Roy