Monday, August 5, 2013

The Basement House

The reporting of the terrible tornado that devastated a community near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma brought to mind root cellars. If you watched the Wizard of Oz movie with Judy Garland, her aunt and uncle took shelter in the root cellar as a tornado was approaching. I remember visiting relatives who lived on farms having root cellars.

The root cellar was under the house and access was from outside. They were not very deep, but deep enough to store vegetables. Most had a dirt floor. In the days of root cellars, they served an additional function, that of a storm cellar.

My parents bought a house in the city. Like all the houses on my street, we had a basement. I am not sure, but I think that city houses had basements to accommodate the furnace that was used to heat the house. Our house had a huge gas furnace but the older houses must have had coal burning furnaces because a couple of the old houses in my neighborhood had coal chutes from a small window at ground level into the basement below. I can't recall visiting a house in Minneapolis that didn't have a full basement.

Not all of my friends and relatives had lived in an above ground house. Some lived for a short time in a basement house. Instead of buying an existing house, the family purchased the land and built their own house. The first step was making the basement and foundation for the eventual house.

It usually took a few years to complete the entire house. Once the basement was complete, some families moved into the basement. When the main floor was finished, the family moved up to the main floor.

The basement house had a distinct appearance. It was a small structure on with a door. I remember these so distinctly that I was certain there would be a photograph on the Internet. I was surprised to find almost none. It seems now a basement house has a new meaning.

This was the only image that I could find of the entrance of a basement house like those of my childhood.


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