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Any idea what might have been stored here?

Posted by sapphire69 (My Page) on
Sat, Dec 1, 12 at 10:49

I am in the process of turning part of my attic into a closet for the master bedroom and I'm trying to figure out what might have been stored in this existing built-in. I am definitely going to clean it up and use it but I was just curious as to what it might have been used for way back when. The attic stairs are quite steep and only accessible through the one back room so I can't imagine it was anything particularly heavy but, judging by some of the hooks, it doesn't look like it was clothes storage. But, who knows?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Neat discovery! I can't wait to see what the sleuths here come up with. Being as how it would be hot and dry up there, something that needed drying, but of little weight, and little attending to because of accessibility? Herbs? Tobacco?

The glass door(s) would seem to indicate that a relatively large value was attached to whatever it was...


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

The wood looks like cedar -- most likely used for clothes. If there are pairs of hooks at the same height, they may have been sort of makeshift rod holders, or they could have been for hanging garment bags. The majority of the clothes, and the blankets and linens, etc., were probably boxed up for the season, rather than hung.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I love the glass door! I have no idea, but I'll share that in our (1912) house, all of the closets had larger hooks (like your decorative ones) instead of rods. In the basement we have the hooks like in your ceiling that we assumed were for clothesline, since they're in pairs across the room. But maybe they had another purpose before that room was turned into the laundry area.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I had thought clothes as well but the wood doesn't look the same as the cedar armoire that I have up there. Then again, I'm not versed in wood at all so they could be identical for all I know! It gets VERY hot up there in the summer and quite cold in the winter and with the stairs being so narrow and steep, I would guess it would be difficult to lug big boxes of anything up there.

What really had me doubting the closet concept is because the attic access is on the "smaller" side of the house. There are two pretty big bedrooms on the front of the house, a pass through bedroom in the middle and then three smaller rooms in back. Only one large bedroom and the pass-through bedroom has a closet. The third room is only accessible from the second smaller room and the attic access is in that third room. The second staircase is also on the "smaller" side of the house. This led me to think that children or servants occupied those rooms so a built in closet for them would seem odd. Of course, I'm probably completely romanticizing the reason for the layout so don't take anything I say seriously!!

In any case, I have some time carved out this month to clean it up and start using it! I can't wait to see it with clean glass doors!

Cookingofjoy, I sure wish I had more of those decorative hooks! There aren't any in the few closets there are in this house so I treasure the couple that I have.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I'd say the hanging hooks are for line, while the decorative wall ones are definitely for clothes. I have hanging hooks like those in my basement, and they had clothesline strung between them when I moved in twenty-five years back. I put new line on them and they can still be useful today.

My closets all have simpler hooks than yours, plus a shelf, and a rod, although it is a tight fit using hangers of modern size on them. :)

A closet for servants or kids (more likely) was part of maximizing on space--very few homes actually had any wasted space as a use could be found for almost any nook. My finished attic is one lage room, with three dormers, and every bit of space is accessible except one small part on the northwest corner--where a chimney runs through it from the parlor. It is between the north side dormer and the front dormer. All the rest of the space is used for storage, and one section has coat hooks and is finished with a speckly hardboard type stuff...a tiny space about 3x3 even has a door!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Another interesting clue is that the glass doors do not go to the floor. I.e. one would have to step over the 2'-3' knee wall to enter the space. Why make it so difficult to gain access? There must be a reason for this.

Clothes don't make sense to me given the layout, climate, and difficulty in accessing. Rather, something of relative value that was lightweight and which rarely needed to be accessed, and for which a door extending to the floor would be inappropriate, and which was best kept in a low-humidity environment.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

A 3x3 space with a door? I can't imagine what would have been stored there! It couldn't have been much so why close it off with a door?

That's the other thing that made me question the closet theory. It's really not very big. There is a chimney between the cabinet and the wall and with the shelf there, there really isn't very much hanging space. I know they didn't have as much clothing as we do now but there was room on the other sides to make it a little bigger so as to accommodate more than one person but they didn't.

Oh, if walls could talk! (Loved that show!)


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

These old houses are so great for hide and seek--why did I have to grow up in a ranch?


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

A closet for mysterious Lodge robes?? or similar secret society? hopefully a society for good works....


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Looks like birds lived there for a while.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

LOL!! All I can picture is Mr. Cunningham as the Grand Puba!

Birds most definitely lived here. The house is over a 130 years old and was left empty for some years. I am making quite a few updates but staying true to the original footprint as much as possible. I really didn't want to do anything drastic with the attic but, in dire need of some closet space, I decided to use part of it. I didn't want to take part of a bedroom, forego the master bathroom or fill my already small master bedroom with furniture.

Hopefully, the secret society approves of the changes!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

My attic is a typical knee-walled foursquare space: one big room surrounded by storage behind the knee walls. There are three dormers, one on the front and one on each of the two longer sides. The back of the house doesn't have one...so the storage space is shaped like a U on the back of the house, while that on the south side is L shaped. The inaccessible part is on the north between the front and north side dormers--although my old cat found her way in once and I had to shine a light in for her t0 come out again. :)

The L section is the one finished off with speckly hardboard and with the 3x3 door which closes off the short leg of the L which is next to the front dormer. It isn't a wood door, just a frame covered with the hardboard, but is hinged and has a porcelain cabinet knob...and is finished inside with the same hardboard, so it was meant to store something. This L section has coat hooks and an electric light, while the bigger U section in the back has no electric or any covering over the sheathing and rafters.

This is part of why I can't figure how to insulate the finished space of the attic...particularly the ceiling and sloping sections of the walls. My flooring runs all the way to the roof with no openings as I have box gutters with no soffit space.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Aging hams and bacon slabs would be my guess, or if in proximity to your chimney if might have been a warming cupboard. I doubt fabrics would have been stored long-term in space with a glass door, because of fading.

Is the space carefully mouse-proofed?

Edited to add: Nuts! I was thinking that bagged or baskets of nuts or bags of corn or containers of other whole grains might have stored there during the fall and winter. I had bushel baskets of ancient butternuts and black walnuts in my attic. And come to think about it, depending on the ambient temps, perhaps winter squash which doesn't like the higher humidity of a root cellar. An attic closet would have been cooler and dryer than other storage areas. Pickles or sauerkraut in crocks (and are a bit stinky) might also be a poss., cheese maybe, though it usually requires higher humidity, and darkness during aging.

It might have been a sheltered spot to overwinter slightly tender plants, as well.

Is the space easily accessible from the kitchen?

The fabric remnants may hvae been canvas or crash linen draperies to give the cup board an air of cleanliness.

Again: evidence of very careful mouse-proofing would add credence to the storage of food or seeds. It wouldn't have been used in the summer as attic temps get too high. But if it was partitioned off from the rest of attic, and against a chimney flue, then it would still have been warmer than the rest of the attic in winter.

Many things in old houses take years of mulling over to figure out. The deliberate placement of those highly unusual glazed sliding doors means it was an important place, for some important functional reason. This is why new old-house owners should proceed very slowly with reno plans, or risk destroying something special that isn't ovious to our modern eyes. It might be something particular to your house, alone.

HTH,

L.

This post was edited by liriodendron on Sun, Dec 2, 12 at 20:28


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Aging hams and bacon slabs would be my guess, or if in proximity to your chimney if might have been a warming cupboard. I doubt fabrics would have been stored long-term in space with a glass door, because of fading.

I like that idea about the meat. It was the first thing that came to my mind. Not sure why the need for windows though


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

My sister suggested meat as well but it's such a tight staircase that I would think it would be difficult to heft a pig up there!

The space is not exactly easily accessible from the kitchen. You would have to come up the back stairs, go down the hall and through two rooms to get to the attic stairs. What would be considered evidence of mouse proofing?

In the picture below, you can see the brick of the chimney at the bottom of the cabinet. It goes all the way up and is visible with the door closed. That side of the cabinet is paneled on the inside so would the chimney still be able to warm the inside significantly?


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Of course the chimney would warm that little closed-off space. In olden days they didn't have insulated liners!

You wouldn't take the whole pig up, just the hams and slabs of bacon. That staircase would be fine. They weren't as um, big, as we generally are now.

The sliding glass door, is the key - along with any evidence of careful mouseproofing to protect any foodstuffs. Something was stored there that needed modest heat (from the chimney) to avoid freezing, but not enough to be at heated room temps. And not something like most veg and fruit which require high humidity and darkness. It was something that was tended to irregularly, not multiple times per day. It was something that either needed light (over-wintering plants) or the glass was there to make inspection of the contents easy.

Of course, maybe that's where the Mr. Rochester of your house kept his demented wife chained up.

That wasn't what I meant by, Nuts!

L.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

LOL!! At least he provided her with a little shelf to rest on at night! Hopefully, the chimney kept her plenty warm! Of course, when she really got bad, he had to move her outside to the long term restoration project in my back yard.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Yowzaa!

I bet your neighbors in their decorous (but boring) vinyl-sided colonials are praying at every thunderstorm that your barn collapses.

You might want to get that roof tarped off before any more damage happens. In many towns, you could be looking at a demolition order for a building in that state. So it would be wise to have some evidence of "work-in-progress" to defend against such a situation.

Even if it falls in, there's likely parts of your house out there in the barn. Don't dispose of it without a thorough look-see.

L.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Yeah, they are not exactly pleased but I have only had the house for four years and the first thing I had to do back there was have about fifteen random trees cut down. Then I moved on to the living space in the house!

I have been inside multiple times. I've had two engineering studies done and it's actually in better shape structurally than it looks. There were just wood beams on the floor that have rotted away, which is why it's leaning. The only other parts that are in bad shape are the places where moisture damage has occurred.

The city has contacted me a couple of times but they are working with me, thank goodness! I would chain myself to it before I would allow it to be torn down.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I bet it was an old carriage house. I once recorded with my camera all the old carriage houses in my small town and then in a nearby city. Some had been reinvented as auto garages, some as guest houses, others left as carriage barns.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Wow, what a neat idea! I would love it if someone had a picture of what mine used to look like. When I bought the property, the previous three owners had pretty much left it to nature and there were trees tearing at the roof. The only artifacts left inside were windows, doors and shutters.

She's a big part of the reason that I bought the house and she will be restored to the grand space that she used to be!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

My vote is for out of season clothing or blanket storage with the door for dust protection. That wood looks like old cedar. If you can find a hidden spot to sand a little you could check for the pungent smell of cedar.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I will be working in there this weekend and will sand a bit on the inside and see what happens. I will also be looking for evidence of mouse-proofing.

Right now, I'm trying to find out how to remove decades old bird poo without damaging the wood!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

dead bodies most likely :p ever hear any funny nosies coming from the space at night? :) muhahahahha


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Not yet, igloo, but if I do, the house will quickly enter its second period of abandonment! I don't do well with things that go bump in the night!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

LOL I talk to mine...not that I've actually seen or heard any, and if I did I'd put the house on the market in a New York second...which I tell them on occasion to keep them quiet....

But if I had a dead body...I'd keep it up there in that cabinet :p

I actually have a few "dead bodies" we use for halloween. I'd hang them from those hooks and use that as my halloween storage...that would teach people not to snoop LOL


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Gives a whole new meaning to skeletons in your closet! I'll keep that in mind if I'm ever out your way!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

No curing of meat in the attic, far too warm, temps must be in the low to mid 40's.

The mystery to me is the large 3 over 3 window that is mounted off of the floor that creates a step over. Some thing was stored there that needed light. But why above the floor?

The window seems to be able to slide across, is there a window section behind it?

Are there any other windows on the property that match these? I.E. where they recycled to the attic. Perhaps explains the step up.

Why the white shelf? Is it also old why painted white?

Are those "J" hooks painted? from here looks like they may be clad in something.

This is going to drive me bankers, why did you do this to me?


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I must learn to read more carefully, cold in the winter, that's good for curing meat. That doesn't explain the window. All the cold rooms my Italian grandparents and Dad had were dark, never had windows. Mold growth is an element of curing, inconsistent is not good. Modern cure facilities always maintain the same light levels I am told.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Don't worry, Southerncanuck. You won't be the only resident in Looneyville behind this! There are no other windows like this in the house. The glass door slides over to uncover the rest of the cabinet and a chimney. To add to the mystery, when I took out all of the junk from the PO, I found a divider built into the bottom part. As soon as I can remove the decades old bird poo that is stuck on like paint, I will add more photos.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I forgot to say that the shelf and the hooks are not painted...just very dusty!

This post was edited by sapphire69 on Sat, Dec 15, 12 at 17:01


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

What is the "floor" part of the space like? Does it look like it ever had dirt/water spilled on it?

The window and the 3 foot knee wall make me think of a "starter garden", where you'd start seeds in containers indoors while it was still winter outside, and then the plants would be a good size before planting outside. Raising them up to the 3 foot level would allow more light in from the window. Being next to the chimney would give the seeds and baby plants more warmth to start growing.

Yeah I know, that doesn't explain the hooks in the walls. :-)

--Lee


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

The floor of the space is wood. It has a built in divider down the middle, which I just discovered, and it doesn't look like there was ever any moisture in it.

And you must have read my mind about the hooks!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

It wouldn't have been a pigeon (or other bird) coop?


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Hi Clarion,

The bird decorating happened when the house was abandoned for several years. There is no evidence of birds ever being inside the closet so I doubt it was a space for birds.

And that wouldn't explain the hooks either!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Deleted duplicate post

This post was edited by sapphire69 on Tue, Dec 18, 12 at 5:40


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

OK, this is just stream of consciousness, but what did people have in those days that we don't have now? The hooks put me in mind of hats. The window doesn't make sense, nor does the step-over, but hats took up space and were light to carry; could be put upstairs in the off-season. If covered in hat bags or boxes, the sunlight would not have mattered.

Igloochic's post also reminds of seasonal decorations - wreaths? Or was there something they needed for church, for horses (carriage house reminds us they had horses), sewing, which they must have done... wool waiting to be spun?

I think there might not be a standard answer. We tend to think there were ways people "did" things in those days but they were as much individuals as we are are and maybe someone just had an idiosyncratic hobby that this served in some way. Since such rooms aren't a common feature it had to be something individual. And the hooks may not have been original - maybe added by a subsequent (but still long-ago) owner trying to figure out what to use the space for :-)

Karin L


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

It's where they kept the crazy person in the family. Clearly. ;)


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Old Home Lover, maybe there were two very small crazy people and they would fight when they would touch each other so they built a divider to separate them!

Karin, you might just be correct in that it was something built for a use specific to the individual who lived here and not something that was common. This thought, of course, makes me even more curious as to what that specific use was!!

Here is what the bottom looks like and how it looks with the door closed:


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I'm absolutely fascinated by this mystery. It almost seems like it would've been used as a kennel for puppies/kittens? The glass doors, to me, mean what would've been put in there would've needed light. Or one would've needed to look in without opening the door each time.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

It's certainly been a head-scratcher for me, chicagochristina! I don't think there were any animals stored there, if for no other reason than it would have been a long haul to bring them food. And the temps are quite extreme up there, making it difficult for anything to live up there full time.

And, lastly, there is no puppy/kitten "residue" like there is from those blasted pigeons!!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

The removable divider is another clue. What ever was on the floor was sometimes segregated and sometimes not. Step-over. Sliding glass door (either a requirement for light or a requirement to view contents without disturbing).Hooks.

I can only envision plant or animal: Either alive, or dead and curing/drying. It's just to elaborate. Either it was alive, or it would be consumed in the future.

I am back to the drying of herbs or tobacco, or perhaps even fruit. Light would inhibit mold growth. Closed doors would keep dust/draft out. Bottom bins were perhaps for initial placement/drying and after partial drying could then be hung.

This stuff would be lightweight to bring up, and need little attention/access all winter.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I just did some research via google on curing tobacco as a hobbyist. It's all pretty complicated and I didn't spend a whole lot of time, but what I read added, rather than detracted, from a tobacco hypothesis.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Nice summation, clarion! What do you think the shelf off to the side was for?

I had ruled out tobacco because the methods I'd seen for drying wouldn't really work up there. Air drying and fire drying were immediately out. I thought the glass might allow for sun drying but there really isn't enough sunlight up there and the enclosed cabinet reduces it further. I thought flue drying was a possibility with the chimney there but the process requires a lot more temperature control than this set up allows.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

The key to the tobacco hypothesis is "Hobbyist". My research indicated that while standard methods for curing tobacco (i.e. fire, flue) were (are) out of reach of the hobbyist, there were (are) still many other non-standard methods available, and storage in an attic is one of them, which can produce the temperatures required for curing.

Sometimes tobacco was (is) cured in bales. So now the floor space is explained, and if two types and/or methods were utilized, viola! - a divider.

Sometimes it was cured in jars, -and for that we have a shelf.

Also there is a difference between drying and curing, and for at least one of these processes, hanging is helpful, so we have hooks.

And lastly, the relative value of tobacco corresponds, at least to my eye, with the effort and cost involved in the construction of the storage area.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Very interesting! And quite plausible! I will look up curing tobacco as a hobby to see if there is something I can look for in the closet that will tell us we are on the right track!

Thanks, Clarion!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

In what part of the country is this house located? The reason I am asking is that looking at the slant, and the wood there, I can see modern wood sheeting installed for a newer roof. This is what the interior of an unfinished attic roof would look like if it had slate shingles on it at one time. When the slate is ripped, you will then see sheeting lain to accomodate modern shingles. If this were the case, the attic would be quite cold in winter, and quite warm in summer, and although it would have been water tight, it was very airy and they didn't even need roof vents because of that. They did not use sheathing under slate, and it was nailed directly to the wooden boards. I would suspect it was a storage area of some sort. Yes, cured meat could be hung there, salted and dried and hung in muslin bags. It would certainly be less humid than a cellar.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Hi Calliope! The house is in upstate NY and the attic is still quite cold in the winter and quite warm in the summer!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Sort of what I expected, by the interior of the roof. That also pretty much lets out the tobacco suggestion as it's not now, nor was then a typical crop this far north. My old house has one clothes press. It can be over 18" deep and has hooks. Nobody used hangers when it was built. Clothes went on hooks or were folded and stored. It's an odd structure, yes, but consider it was just as easy to build a stand alone closet like that (regardless of whether the use was food or fabric) as building a chest or armoir. It keeps the dust at bay, provides protection from dust and critters and the enclosed bin, well just like a chest, easy to put in bulk items like boots.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

You mentioned the house is "over 130 years old," but do you have a more specific idea of when it was built? When I read that you were in Upstate New York, I thought of the Underground Railroad, which certainly ran through parts of Upstate. It's a little far-fetched, but it would explain several of the features that keep confusing all of us, as well as why so much care/money was put into it. The glass would allow light in, but the knee wall could hide people if necessary, maybe with a false floor on top of that divider. The chimney would likely have heated the space, and being off the smaller staircase and relatively inaccessible would actually have been a feature! The hooks could have been used for something like curing a few hams ("Ham" was frequently used as code along the Underground Railroad, as in "I'm bringing you two large hams and one small ham," so someone might have found it funny to actually hang ham in their hiding place); the ham could have been a "cover" for the existence of the closet.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Calliope, do you have pictures of your clothes press? I've never heard of one of those!

How cool would that be, Artichokey? The interesting thing is that there is talk of my neighborhood being designated as part of a Heritage Trail, which follows the Underground Railroad in this part of the city.

The earliest date that I could find on my abstract was 1881 which, I believe, was too late for the underground railroad. It could have been built earlier but I have no idea how to find out. That use might also explain the "ladder to nowhere" that is in my basement.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Following the underground railroad idea, which is fabulous even if the timing doesn't fit, suggests also studying local archives; news stories or something, to find out more about what was going on locally at the time and what people were doing. If you know who owned the house you could look for news stories with that name (winning largest pumpkin at county fair or what have you) as well as news about the house itself.

I know though.. like anyone has time to do that while restoring an old house :-)

Karin L


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Love old houses can you post a photo of the outside of your house?


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I might have to make some time, Karin! This was a very active area since we are so close to Canada but the first thing I have to try to figure out is if my house was around at that time. I believe the street name was different way back when so I have some digging to do.

nyboy, the outside of the house is pretty underwhelming. I haven't done anything for the curb appeal yet and there are very few decorative elements to speak of. I will look to see if the old picture I posted somewhere on these boards is still on my computer. Who knows? In my research, I may find a picture of what it looked like when it was new!

Wishful thinking, I know!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

A mystery indeed! We won't know unless you can find someone who was connected to that house who can rememeber what it was used for. There are many possibilities, but I can rule out curing meat. Our family cured pork in the 1940s when I lived on a small farm. At first, we used a smoky fire in a small closed building. We sought hickory wood. After smoking and salting for a couple of weeks, the meat was stored in an outdoor storage near the kitchen. Butchering was timed to occur after frosts began and freezing weather. The meat will spoil if warmed for too lng of a period. I had to be consumed before the warmer days of spring. During WW2, the Morton company began marketing an injectble product called Morton's Sugar Cure. A long needle was used to inject the chemicals deep into the meat. This new invention was a boon to farmers because it was faster, eliminated the need for a smoking fire, and was more consistent through the bulk. But again, the meat had to be kept cold else it would spoil. We depended on winter for the cold. This method is "iffy" south of the mason-dixon line due to too many warmer days during the winter.

Since thie space was lined with smooth wood, two uses come to mind.

One: It could have been storage for bed clothes and other seasonal clothing. Typically, beds were furnished with heavy quilts and feather beds for winter and then lighter arrangements for summer. The feather bed was stored sometime during spring.

Two: It was a play nook for the children. Attics were commonly used to store books and unused toys. The same space would be occupied by children on a rainy Sunday. This space was laid out before the house was wired for electricity, therefore, glass panels would have been a welcome addition to help light the interior. Without the glass, the interior would have been a black hole.

I'm inclined to veto the idea about a starter room for plants. There was not enough unfiltered sunlight plus water and soil is asking to ruin/rot the house. It is very inconvenient to carry water to an upper floor. (Mushrooms maybe. Nah.) Starter flats would have been kept on the first floor where the housewife could keep a watchful eye on the plants.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Thanks for the info about the meat, jemdandy! I doubt I will find anyone who has any idea about its original use. When I bought the house, it was being used as a double - a man lived downstairs and his ex-wife lived upstairs, complete with her own kitchen. It was vacant for several years before they got it but I was able to track down the son of the woman who owned it for over fifty years before that and turns out they also used it as a double, renting out the upstairs. So I'm the first owner in over half a century to use it as a single family home. That kitchen upstairs is now well on its way to being a master bathroom! That is also the room that has the only access to the attic.

I'm thinking of contacting the local landmark society to see if they might have any information, either on the house or on any possible uses for the structure. If I get any new information, I will be sure to post it!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

The removable divider is puzzling, but my guess is that they used it for "seasonal" storage and that it was fully enclosed to keep out rodents. I'd also guess that the glass door was used to offer lighting assistance from the nearby outside window.

I'm thinking they'd use this space to store things like nuts, apples, squashes, potatoes, and root vegetables in the autumn and winter, and perhaps to over-winter some garden plants or bulbs/rhizomes. Although, if you have a basement, some of those would go there instead. :)

The hooks could hold baskets or sacks of things, some clothing, and even a temporary lantern if it was being used for additional lighting. Old homes didn't have a lot of closet space, but they had plenty of hooks! (or at least my house came w/ lots of hooks and some are in very strange places. :)


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

There is a fairly large basement, partymusic, that I haven't investigated too much. I tended to think they would have kept foodstuffs down there because the access to the basement is directly off of the kitchen.

I also keep getting stuck on the cloth remnants on the hooks. Maybe they don't mean anything but why would the hooks need to be covered to hang clothes? The structure wasn't used at all by the most recent previous owners but, for all I know, the remnants could have been put there by one of the renters of yesteryear.

I'm back to being stumped.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

You can use fine sandpaper to lightly buff a little area & sniff;
if it's cedar, it'll smell like heaven.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

You have provided another clue, well at least another dimension to this puzzle. You stated that the upstairs had been used as living space for a second party, and that the only entry to the attic was from the kitchen. Old houses were not noted for built-in closets. That space could have been a pantry of sorts for the upstairs kitchen. However, it would have been limited for storing food stuffs since it gets very hot in summer. It could have been used to store table cloths, towels, seat cushions, clothing, etc. A few select bulk food products such as flour, corn meal, and sugar could have been stored therein.

The wood lining the space appears to be cedar or red wood. Cedar was the wood of choice for storing cloth. It was used to repel moths and other insects with similar gnawing habits.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?-2

Your first photo appears to be the rear of the house. I noticed a curious feature: There are two large doors. What do you suppose these were? Those are large enough for stable doors, but I'll put that possibility aside for the moment. The house is 103 yrs old puting its build date ca 1909. Primitive autos had begun to populate the roads by that date, although transportation by horse was still popular. Could there have been a built-in garage? Why two?

If the original occupant was a tradesman, there could have been a workshop behind those doors. Examine the ceilings of the spaces behind those doors for evidence of line shafting.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Hi jemdandy! I am not so sure that it was used as a double when it was originally built so the upstairs kitchen was most likely a bedroom. The kitchen could have been put in at some point in the 1940s when the long time owner lived there. The elements that made it a kitchen was simply a plug for the electric stove and a water supply for the sink. There wasn't enough room for the refrigerator so it was kept in the room attached to it that is now the master bedroom.

And I'm not sure which doors you are referring to. Unless you mean the picture of the old carriage house, which is actually a separate structure in the back yard. I have been inside quite a few times and it's a two-story structure that probably stored the carriages, when not in use. The earliest date I saw on the abstract was 1881, which makes it over 130 years old.

I have contacted the local Landmark Society so perhaps they will come back with some information or at least a lead to follow. And, if I'm very lucky, a picture of the house and the carriage house closer to their original state!

@sylviatexas - I'll be scratching and sniffing this weekend!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

My parents arts/crafts home was built in the mid twenties, and they had a stable under their barn, in the city for the horses. So you bet lots of people had facilities for horses when that was built. My great uncle was a teamster and I don't mean he drove a truck. He ran the mules for a local coal mine and in fact his death was caused from complications from being trampled when he was thrown from his wagons. As for the enclosure being used for meat, it doesn't mean to cure it there. Attics in slate covered homes were colder than heck in winter and you can and did store already dried and cured meats in places like that. They aren't like the hams of today, they were more like salty hockey pucks. They had to be soaked in water to debrine the dried up moldy buggers so they could be eaten.
My 200 year old house had two stairs up. One was a very steep winding stairway from our kitchen next to the back door, much like your's........and the main one was from a central hallway and a more normal dimension.

Here's the thing about old houses..........not so much yours since it's a spring chicken compared to mine, but you run into a lot of 'one of a kind' construction purposely built for somebody's individual needs. You may never find out exactly what it's for, because it may not be an 'anything' somebody else has. LOL It may have just been built for whatever esoteric purpose the homeowner might have had.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Would the large hooks be for hanging hams?My house has a room similar they said they hung hams in there.The floor is black from salt etc,


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

My initial thought was - a sauna. It looks like a cedar sauna that a gym I used to belong to has. It was a dry sauna, not a steam sauna. Who knows, maybe the original builder was from a Scandinavian country and brought to love of saunas with him to upstate NY.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Wow, this is so fascinating. I would love for it to be Underground Railroad, how amazing would that be?

Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed this thread.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I like the sauna idea! As an alternative to plunging into cold water afterward, the frigid temp of the attic itself would be the counterpoint. Is the shelf the right height to be a bench for sitting on? You'd maybe have metal pans in the floor sections for holding your hot rocks, or if it was steam, there is evidence of water having been on the floor. It being a place to be in is the only explanation for it having a glass door.

Karin L


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

@sylviatexas - I went up there to sand the wood a little bit and smell it but it was so cold up there that I was sniffing and sniffling at the same time and I couldn't tell. I'm working on getting a heater up there this weekend so that I can do some work.

@calliope - The staircase pictured above is the one that leads to the attic. There are two other staircases as well - one in the main entry and another off the dining room. That's why this structure was so puzzling to me because, while this is not a huge house, it's quite a trek to go up the stairs, down the hall, through a room and up more stairs to get to the attic. I always try to make sure I gather everything I need when I'm working up there so I don't have to go all the way back down to the first floor or worse - the basement!

I had hoped to hear back from the Landmark Society by now but nothing yet.

When I go back up there, I will check the floor for evidence of salt or moisture. I will also measure the height of the shelf but, even though they were smaller back then, I don't know that it's sturdy enough to hold a human. I know I wouldn't last ten seconds on it!!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Huh. Could it be that the fact that those doors are glass has absolutely nothing to do with WHY they are there, that they are there simply because they were available at the time and could be made to fit the space, or the space made to fit the doors? Waste not, want not, and all that? Repurposing, long before the term was coined.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I don't have any ideas on the attic but thought the "ladder to "no where "was interesting. Long ago I was in a couple of "Underground railroad" houses. 1 had false wall upstairs. GF asked if I noticed anything strange about her closet. I sure did, you never put molding in all around the back wall, I slid my hand down the edge & the wall opened to show a passageway. Papers in basement told about how scared the family was as soldiers were hanging out at their home while black folks were in the passage. Gf wanted to know how I knew right off. My dad built all of our houses so he taught me as we went along. I often held flashlight or light on end of cord, until I was old enough to hammer! Other house is why I'm curious. It had a birdbath out in yard,nice perennials around the base & large yard. Lovely large old house with wrap around porch, I loved it. Then 1 day we were in basement & I looked at walls & wondered why they were such a mess. GF told me good reason,stone in 1 area, brick in another, old dark stone,didn't match up with rest of house. The pretty stone part had a little latch & you could open a door that was so silent & moved so easy I couldn't believe it. inside was where her mom used to store canned goods but no longer did as the sod & timber roof didn't seem that "safe" any more to her dad. As you looked down that tunnel it was an optical illusion as it seemed to be a straight tunnel it was not. It went off to the right & then if you were to go in there it came back to the left thereby hiding many people even though they had found the door & tunnel they could go out birdbath opening & try to run. I knew at 1 time how many people you could hid in there. It was about 4 ft wide or maybe wider. You have all seen coal mines. It was supported by these old timbers with some cross pieces. I tried to figure out how the illusion worked, my dad showed me but that was 50 yrs ago so have no idea but builder was smart. So sapphire, you could have a strange assortment of walls in your basement. The latch was very close to the bottom within a ft. of the floor & I think the workings were all brass. Also no one would talk about it in town & people that had these houses kept quiet. I told dad & he told me never to talk about it I while I lived there. The houses were couple of miles apart. Could have been lots of houses around then or maybe just those, would have to do lot of research & if owner found papers in basement & didn't like what he saw might have destroyed them. So some warm summer night you might want to do a close inspection of your basement. Or the ladder to no where could be ladder to go up with hooks off to side to hang bikes or something on to get them out of way!! Enjoyed this thread!!


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I did go up and scratch and sniff and I'm pretty sure it is cedar wood. I also measured the shelf and it is about 32" off the floor with not much more headroom, if someone were so inclined to sit on it. There is some staining on the floor but not very much and it would be impossible to tell how long ago the spot was made. Add to that the fact that the attic was exposed at some point and the stain could have come from anything.

@sunnyca - What an interesting experience!! What state are those houses in? I would love to find out that my house was connected to the Underground Railroad. I don't expect to find any papers but there are certainly plenty of things to question. I am attaching a picture of the 'Ladder to Nowhere'. It starts at the joists and terminates at the floor so I can't imagine what it could have possibly been used for. It is across from the 'Little Door to Nowhere' in the upper right of the last picture. The only thing on the other side of that door is crawl space under the porch.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

I live in a house built in 1856, in our attic we found a wooden box filled with dirt...could not figure this out! one day when I was up there, I noticed above the box was what looked like a wooden ladder horizontally attached to two beams. There were old loops of string hanging off and realized this was where they stored or cured their meats in the wienter. The box of dirt was to catch fat drippings without damaging the floor. This is located near the chimney that comes from the livingroom fireplace. It has a slate roof so reading these posts has helped clarify why they would have done so! Looking at the "door" it looks to me like an old window to me. Such a neat find for you, it may always remain a mystery and a highlight feature of your home!


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RE: Any idea ?

The houses were in South Dakota, the Underground railroad folks would go up through Eastern So. Dak, N.Dak. & into Canada as far as we could figure out. Can't remember if they told the route on papers or not, probably not in case soldiers found the papers, wouldn't want to endanger the slaves or themselves by being questioned further, better to act like "you didn't know anything"


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what might have been stored here?

Forgot to mention most ladders to nowhere in South Dakota were about 25 in. off floor before 1st step, I always thought it was to keep younger kids from going up them but you kind of had to pull yourself up with your hands as you were getting your foot on the 1st step. Parents didn't want kids trying to get their bikes down in winter or sleds down in summer I suppose. Lot of basements had them. Too cold & too much snow to leave anything outside. we had small boat with oars & engine that I had to fix almost every time I went out, think it was supposed to have a cotter pin ?? but Dad said to have several bobbypins in my hair whenever I went out in boat. They worked great! Boat hung from hooks in garage dad built in winter. Our basement was finished & dad had added shuffleboard in tile & also checkerboards so we could sit on floor & play checkers. He liked to design interesting things.


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RE: Any idea what might have been stored here?

Because this is in the attic and because there is easy access to the outside window and the storage area also has a sliding glass window for light, perhaps this was a homing pigeon coop for a few pigeons. the window to the outside, then the windowed door on the unit is opened and the pigeon(s) leave and then come back. the hanging hooks might have been makeshift perches. no idea why the bottom has a dividing piece of wood though.


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