Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

Beehive oven

Oven with rounded brick ceiling which resembles shape of a beehive.

A beehive oven is a type of oven used since the Middle Ages in Europe, and it was later brought to North America. A beehive oven is a dome-shaped brick structure that looks a bit like an insect's nest, hence the name 'beehive'. The dome shape traps heat in the oven so food cooks evenly. All parts of a beehive oven were made of brick, include the oven's base, or floor, and its sides. Sometimes the outer surface was covered with a layer of mud or lime to seal it. The oven was heated by making a fire inside of it and keeping that fire burning long enough to heat all the bricks. Only then was the oven ready to use.

History of the Beehive Oven

Beehive ovens were used for cooking and baking important foods like bread. Sometimes in early communities, there was one main oven for baking bread.

Beehive ovens also had industrial uses. Large ovens were heated and used to turn coal into coke, a product important in iron-making. Coal was burned to create coke, which then fueled blast furnaces. Coke burned hotter than uncooked coal and so made for better fires. In the 1830s, beehive ovens began to be used extensively in the iron industry. By 1916, there were more than 46,000 beehive ovens being used for industrial purposes in the United States.
- What is a Beehive Oven? - History & Method  (online May 2018)


Photos and their arrangement 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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