An antique pie safe is a cozy addition to a country home. Used for centuries to store cakes, pies, and other sweets away from flies and other pests, the pie safe is a versatile addition to any country kitchen.
A Pie Safe by Any Other Name
Pie safes are known by many different names, depending on what part of the country you are from. The name can even differ from county to county in some areas. Some common ways that pie safes are known:
- Pie cabinet
- Pie cupboard
- Pie safe
- Kitchen safe
- Screened safe
What Is a Pie Safe?
The pie cabinet was most likely introduced to the United States by the German people that immigrated to Pennsylvania and became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Despite the name they were used for more than pies. Everything from bread to cake was kept in a pie cupboard.The pie safe was an important piece of furniture. It was generally a tall and narrow cabinet made of pine, although other woods might be used. It was freestanding and could be moved easily if necessary. The pie safe was generally kept as far from the wood stove as possible, to keep the food safe from too much heat. On the farm it might even have been kept on the back porch, next to the dry sink to catch as much cool air as possible.
Generally pie safes were made from local wood. Often pine and other soft woods were used for shelves, drawers, and interior pieces while a nicer, more expensive wood was used for the exterior areas. Pine was especially popular in the southern states.
Inside the cabinet were shelves to hold pies and other foods. There would be screening or punched tin designs in the top, sides, doors, or a combination of these. The screen allowed the baked goods to have ventilation while keeping rodents, flies, and hungry children at bay. The ventilation helped the food to stay cooler and to keep it from molding easily.
Some kitchen safes had tops that opened upward while others had a combination of doors and drawers. There were even pie safes that were a combination safe and jelly cupboard. The pieces would be made to either the whim of the cabinet maker or the specifications of the lady of the house.
What Determines the Value of an Antique Pie Safe?
As with any antique item, the value of an antique kitchen safe will be determined by a number of things, including:
- Unique characteristics always add value to a piece. Unusual height, width, materials, or decoration will add value.
- Original paint and hardware are valued by most collectors.
- Provenance comes into play if the piece has been owned by an important historical figure or has a unique story attached to it.
- Condition will always be important in determining the value of a piece.
- Demand depends a lot on where you live and whether or not collectors are looking for what you have.
You can expect to pay several thousand dollars for a late nineteenth century pie safe yet you could potentially find a primitive early twentieth century safe for less than two hundred.
Resources to Consider
Whether you want to buy an antique pie cabinet, find a reproduction, build one, or find just the right hardware to restore the one you all ready own, the Internet is your friend. There are thousands of websites that specialize in antiques of all sorts:
- eBay is always a great source for antiques and hardware. Use caution and make sure you understand what you are buying and what the various policies are.
- Van Dykes Restorers has a huge selection of all sorts of hardware and items to help you restore or build your own piece.
- Woodworkers Workshop offers free plans to help you build your own pie safe.
- Antique Country Furniture Store offers reproductions of pie safes so you can have the look without the expense.
Adding an antique pie safe to your kitchen, or even using it in the bathroom to hold towels, is a great way to add a touch of old fashioned charm to your décor.