The Basement

Written June 3, 2012

It’s a common question after we rattle on about the house with someone new. Almost everyone says, “What’s the basement like?” knowing full well that basements in 100-year-old homes are often a little sketchy. So for all of you out there wondering, here are a few pictures to give you an idea of why we won’t be finishing it off and putting a rec room down there.

First, a picture of me during one of the early visits. Clearly it was almost a deal breaker for me until I convinced myself that the house is big enough that I could live in it for years without having any reason at all to go down to the basement.

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Here is a photo of the former coal room. The boarded-up window on the right is where the coal was shoveled in from the outside and the bin on the left was where it was stored.

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Close up of the empty bin. Great hide-and-seek spot. Not!

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And a close up of the previous electrical panel – an alarming maze of wires.

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At the front of the house the basement is more of a crawl space. It’s really, really dark back in there which made it incredibly creepy until Joe the inspector flashed his light at it and revealed this:

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Yep, nothing. He even hopped up into it and crawled around assuring us there were no leaks, no bugs, and no boogey men. BIG thanks to Joe and a shout out to Aardvark Pest Control and Inspectors who have taken care of spiders, ants and wasps at our current home for years.

There’s one little area that held all sorts of goodies like some original doors to the house and the banister to the main staircase which had been cut off at some point. This last find saved us thousands of dollars in master carpentry work trying to recreate it. Whew!

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Right now the main part of the basement is home to the heating and air conditioning guru, Doug, who cuts all of the metal sheeting to make the new ductwork.

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Since a lot of the plumbing, ductwork and electrical wires run through the basement, all of the guys have spent their fair share of time down there. Here’s Doug squeezed into one of the more cozy corners of this lovely basement.

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Anyway, I now can venture into the basement without hesitation and I can even envision it cleaned up a bit (OK, a lot) with white-washed walls and some storage space. I’ve come a long way.

Drew on the other hand is still contemplating spending a night in the basement just to see how long he lasts. He thinks that 90 minutes may be the limit. As an aside…he and several of his buddies went to the house the night before we started demolition to play hide and seek. It was an awesome idea, right? An empty, old house to run around in without the worry of hurting anything. We covered up all hazards like holes in the floors and alerted the neighbors who weren’t used to having anyone there at night lest they call the police. The problem was that Drew had never been there at night and his friends had never been there at all, so it was a little more daunting than anticipated. They had to do an initial walk through as a large group to get their bearings after which his friends deemed the place haunted. After that they could only play hide and seek in pairs, the familiar buddy system, and only for a short while before they all opted to head home. Only two of them have returned since. The real kicker is that the neighbor, Leith, asked me the next day what night the boys were coming to play. I said they already had to which he replied, ‘Darn. I was going to come in ahead of them and jump out from a closet to scare them.’ Just as well Leith mixed up the dates. Drew said he is sure that given everyone’s reaction to the empty house, that would have done them all in for sure.


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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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