Lots of things. Hiding liquor during Prohibition. Hiding valuables at
any time. (My house has a secret compartment that the original owner
used to store his silverware in.) It could have been part of the underground
railroad, like you suggested. Ohio is a bit far north, though.
Not so. I live at the shore of Lake Erie and many of the older homes
here were part of the underground railway. The freed slaves were not
safe until they got to Canada; boats picked them up here. They had to
be kept hidden here as there were many agents of the slaveholders
searching for them and, as posted above, the law was on the side of the
SPAMBLOCK NOTICE! To reply to me, delete the h from apkh.net, if it is
Does the wall dividing the dirt-floored area look newer / different than the
rest of the walls of the foundation, or the same age / same construction?
Possibly the house was simply added onto back in the past, and access hole was
added to be able to access the new crawlspace (OK, so 5' isn't really a
crawlspace, but it sure ain't a functional basement, either).
Hard to believe it's a root cellar -- the access sounds incredibly
It could have been just a normal crawlspace, with the access hatch
eventually covered by new flooring added later on.
When I had my new hardwood floor installed, I also had a problem about what
to do with the 2'x2' access hatch to my crawlspace. It's not a good ideay
to close it off, since crawlspace access is very convenient for electrical
and plumbing work. The floor installer suggested covering the hatch with
hardwood with two inlaid brass handles, and creating a hardwood frame around
the hatch. Everything is flat and looks pretty good. The hatch can be opened
when necessary but is otherwise unobtrusive. A cutoff wooden ladder rests on
the edge of the hatch access hole to provide "stairs" to the crawlspace
Another possibility that hasn't been mentioned yet is that it used to
be a cistern to hold rainwater. I don't think that was a common thing
to do, however, I have personally seen one cistern and have heard of
others in old houses.
My guess is that it is simply an addition to the house, and when they
built the new foundation, they didn't bother to break a hole through
the old foundation to access the new. You should be able to easily
tell if this section of the house is an addition or not.
As others have said, it wouldn't be part of the underground railroad
unless the house was built before the 1860's.
That occurred to me, too, but if it was a cistern, they'd probably
have parged the walls, the floor would be either clay or some
kind of masonry, and you ought to be able to see where pipes for
the downspouts and kitchen pump used to be.
"Dorthy Fuller" wrote
Thanks for all the replies! Sorry I posted about an unknown history, we do
know the house was built around 1838. We had contacted our local police
department. Believe it or not, we are only allowed to gather some items and
suitcases for a couple hours here and then we will be notified when we can
return. They have the entire house yellow taped off, Police Line Do Not
Cross. This is now more scary than it is exciting! I will give another
update whenever we are allowed back inside and are given at least a clue as
what in the world is going on.
Unless I mised something, it isn't a discrepancy. In the first post it
was called a "century house". Doesn't mean that it is 100 years old.
AFIK that term is applied to any house at least that old.
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