Before the invention of refrigeration, fresh meat had to be eaten quickly before it spoiled. Curing meat with salt and smoke made it last longer. Farmers packed fresh cuts of meat in tubs of coarse salt for several weeks before hanging them in a smokehouse to cure.
Smokehouses helped Naperville farm families preserve meats, including hams, bacon and sausages. Smoldering hardwood fires burned on the dirt floor of the smokehouse, curing meat with smoke. The smoke would slowly cook the meat and infuse it with flavor. The process could take weeks, and the fire had to be carefully watched so that it smoldered and smoked at the right temperature. The result was dried, long-lasting, smoke-flavored meat that aged in the smoke house for many months before eaten. The smokehouse also stored cured meats and kept them safe from insects, vermin and potential thieves.
This 1870s smokehouse has double-thick brick walls that support a limestone slab roof most likely hauled from one of the local Naperville quarries. The smokehouse was moved to Naper Settlement from the Gartner family farm on 87th Street in 1977.