An Irish Cottage in Sumner County

      Hugh Rogan built his two-room stone house, Rogana, between 1795 and 1802. The house could have been built as early as 1795, but more likely the year was 1798 or shortly thereafter when Nancy and Bernard returned with him from Ireland and Francis was born. Rogana is one of the earliest masonry houses in Tennessee and, more importantly, is a rare surviving example of American architecture which is clearly based on an Irish folk house in scale, materials, and plan.

      Unlike many of his countrymen, Rogan did not choose to build in the form of the Pennsylvania German log construction with central passage that is so commonly linked with the pioneer settlement of the mid-Atlantic, southeast and mid-west. Rather, Rogan built in the traditional two-room linear floor plan of Irish folk houses and used dressed limestone, a plentiful material in both his native country and in Sumner County.

      The entrances to the Rogan home, following Irish tradition, open directly into the room of the family. This arrangement welcomed the visitor immediately to the hearth as opposed to entering a central passage off which rooms opened for privacy and formality. Each room is entered by a central recessed doorway measuring 3 feet and 4 inches wide with wooden lintels and stone sills.

      Opposite each door is a window also 3 feet and 4 inches wide. Practical for cross-ventilation, the feature of opposing openings is grounded in Irish folklore. While interpretations vary, the openings were said to be situated to allow a direct path for the "good people" or fairies to come and go through the house insuring the continued luck of the occupants.

      Rogana's two rooms are almost the same size and roughly square. These rooms are close to the average of traditional northern Irish farmhouses but are also similar in space to the dimensions of most log cabins built by English settlers. The long rectangular shape of Irish folk housing and the linear linking of two or more rooms was customary and preserved by practice and superstition. A house, to be "lucky," must be only one room wide. A folk belief predicted that if one widened a house, the family would get smaller.

Stone Cottage in Glentown associated with Rogan Family

Left: This early nineteenth century stone cottage in County Tyrone is associated with the Rogan Family.

Right: Hugh Rogan's cottage as it appeared in 1983.

Rogan Floor Plan

Rogan House
Floor plan and front view of the Rogan house. Floor plan courtesy of Jeri Hasselbring.