As mentioned before, I like dreams about unexplored areas of houses. I’ve dreamed about new houses with labyrinth-like layouts and about finding secret places in our current house. So, when we discovered that we might have a secret room under our screened-in porch, I was intrigued.
Our house was built shortly after World War II in an area of Bethesda called Huntington Terrace. The street on which the house was built hosts several other homes that look similar to ours — a typical brick center hall colonial common in this area. What is unique about the homes is that the home directly opposite is exactly the same — a reverse mirror-image, but no two other homes are the exact same. Another unique quality of several of the homes was an excavated “secret” room under the screened in porch. At least two neighbors broke through the cinder block in the basement to find an extra 1000+ cubic feet of space. At least two others broke through from the outside and created outside storage.
When we first heard about the room under the porch we joked about opening it up and making a root / wine cellar out of it. We also joked (as did several of our friends) that we may find a body in the room. I didn’t really think seriously about it until we looked at the across the street neighbor’s extra room when the house was on the market. Dean went back at least once to look at the room and not long after that we called the man who refinished our attic (my current office) and asked if he could do the job of breaking through the wall and making a door to our room that we now were sure existed. He wasn’t so sure, but gave us a reasonable estimate price and said he’d call when he had time. Months went by, but he eventually called and said he could start work on a Monday in August.
In anticipation I snapped a few shots:
On Monday at 9:00 am sharp, Peter and his assistant, Eric, arrived to start work. They quickly set up and while Peter brought things in from the truck, Eric started chipping away at the cinder block of the laundry room wall.
Instead of 61 year old air we saw dry dirt. Peter and Eric both tried to push a crowbar into the dirt, hoping it was not packed into the space, but it wouldn’t give. I called Dean and told him the news. We didn’t have an excavated secret room. Instead we had a room full of dirt that hadn’t seen the light of day in over 60 years.
Peter and Eric did find air instead of dirt directly under the porch, but the porch is only about 4 feet above ground.
Dean did some musing for about a day and a half about how he and Andrew could excavate the dirt through the laundry room and out the basement door but calculations came to far too may work hours to make it a reality.
As you can imagine we were all disappointed. I thought I’d get a wine / root cellar. Dean hoped for some extra space so he could set up his workbench inside instead of having to store it outside under the addition. We’re over it now, but it sure would have been nice.
We wondered why some of the houses on our street had excavated rooms and others did not. I recently found an old Washington Post advertisement about our street and it seems that the homes on the opposite side of the street were finished first. I think that by the time the builder got to our house he figured that there was no need to remove the earth from the area under the porch. Little did he know that his decision would make some future owners kind of sad.
In hindsight I wonder if not knowing would have been best. It was always kind of cool to think that there was a room on the other side of the laundry room wall, just waiting to be uncovered. Now that we know it is just a space filled with dry old soil, it’s taken away a small, but delicious, mystery.