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Secret rooms


Inspectorjoe
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Ever see one of those old movies where someone backs up to a wall and it revolves, leading them into a secret room? I found one recently.

The house was a big Dutch Colonial, built in 1922. In a foundation wall is a wooden door. The door opens into a small concrete block room, located under the side yard. The floor is brick and dirt, and roughly three feet lower than the main basement floor.

The back wall of this room contains a revolving door. The door is constructed of six inch concrete block, supported on a heavy steel frame that revolved on bearings. It's three and a half blocks wide and nine courses high. The mortar joints in the door match the joints in the walls perfectly. Large bolts with dog ears were the way it was originally sealed closed.

The bearings are seized, so I couldn't move it. It was open about a foot. The best I could do to see behind it was to stick my camera through the opening.

The room behind the door was pretty narrow, with double rows of very large diameter horizontal pipes along the back wall, apparently used at one time as shelf supports.

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This house has a second hidden room, located above the basement steps.

On the right side of the door at the top of the basement steps is a hinged panel. Behind the panel is a counterweight with a handle mounted to it. When the counterweight is lifted, a door drops down from the ceiling above the steps. It drops down onto the top step and forms a ramp. Walking across the ramp takes you into a small room lined with shelves.

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Anybody have any ideas what these rooms were built for? The only thing that comes to my mind is to store booze during prohibition.

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I get a big thrill discovering secret rooms. The clients usually know about it and wait to see if I will find it.

A late 1880 colonial revival had a third floor, but no stairs to get to up it. A small library on the second floor had all walls covered with mahogany bookcases. One section pushed back and to the side on carriage shed door tracks. There was a cast iron spiral staircase, supposedly from a W.W.I submarine, to the third floor which contained a complete separate apartment.

A Queen Ann mansion had a "ticket booth" structure in the main parlour enclosed with turned spindles. The second and third floor bedroom doors had outlines in the shellac where they were once numbered. Each room had a built in wash basin stand. There was a large decorative wardrobe in a second floor sitting room that had a false back. Behind the opening were stairs that led down to an underground passage that terminated at a hatch in the floor below the carriage house. The agent proclaimed it must have been a boarding house and the secret passage was for the "underground railroad". I had my own theory about the use of the building, but kept it to myself.

A couple days after the inspection, the buyers called me after meeting with a local historian. They had a copy of an article from the 20's describing a raid and arrest of many prominent men from the community including two NJ politicians in this house of immoral and illegal activities.

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Very cool. I've had a couple secret rooms also.

The most interesting one was from the "retirement" home of Anthony (the Tuna) Accardo, well known Chicago Mob boss. The entryway was all mirrors & frame & panel walls. Push on a specific area of one panel, & a door opened to a massive stairwell w/crystal chandelier that went down about 20 feet to the deepest single family home bsmt. I've ever been in.

The bsmt. was larger than the house & was equipped w/a complete commercial kitchen that could feed about 100 folks, walk in coolers, an office, a huge vault, & a "board room" with a large circular table w/voting switches @ each of the chairs. Supposedly, mob meetings occurred there & they voted on whatever they voted on. The finish in the room was remarkable; some of the finest finish carpentry I've ever seen.

I have a buddy who grew up in the neighborhood (River Forest, a suburb of Chicago where most of the made mob bosses resided), and he said meetings were common. Large numbers of huge black Cadillacs would park in the front drive, wiseguys would fan out & stand on street corners, standing guard.

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Originally posted by inspecthistoric

I get a big thrill discovering secret rooms. The clients usually know about it and wait to see if I will find it.

A late 1880 colonial revival had a third floor, but no stairs to get to up it. A small library on the second floor had all walls covered with mahogany bookcases. One section pushed back and to the side on carriage shed door tracks. There was a cast iron spiral staircase, supposedly from a W.W.I submarine, to the third floor which contained a complete separate apartment.

A Queen Ann mansion had a "ticket booth" structure in the main parlour enclosed with turned spindles. The second and third floor bedroom doors had outlines in the shellac where they were once numbered. Each room had a built in wash basin stand. There was a large decorative wardrobe in a second floor sitting room that had a false back. Behind the opening were stairs that led down to an underground passage that terminated at a hatch in the floor below the carriage house. The agent proclaimed it must have been a boarding house and the secret passage was for the "underground railroad". I had my own theory about the use of the building, but kept it to myself.

A couple days after the inspection, the buyers called me after meeting with a local historian. They had a copy of an article from the 20's describing a raid and arrest of many prominent men from the community including two NJ politicians in this house of immoral and illegal activities.

As I was reading that, I was thinking "brothel". Kinda funny...

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  • 4 years later...

The Dutch are known for hiding rooms and people, anyone remember Anne Frank. I was in Amsterdam and saw first hand how well they concealed the upper room. They never would have found her if not for the windows. Notice how narrow and the angle of the steps, they got used to building straight up, as re-claimed land was scarce so the only way to build was up.

Too cool, good find...

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Thanks for digging up this thread Jim, I'd never have found it.

Can't imagine what you were searching for though[:-dev3]

Tom

I must confess, until your post, I thought it was new. It showed up under "Active Topics" for some reason. Having read your post, I now see the date. What the heck?

Slightly off topic, for the last few weeks, when I click on "Active Topics" I get threads that don't seem to have changed since the last time I read them. Though, till now, none have been 4 years old. Is anyone else experiencing that?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Slightly off topic, for the last few weeks, when I click on "Active Topics" I get threads that don't seem to have changed since the last time I read them. Though, till now, none have been 4 years old. Is anyone else experiencing that?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

I think that might happen when a post is edited.

Ah, of course. Thanks.

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Thanks for digging up this thread Jim, I'd never have found it.

Can't imagine what you were searching for though[:-dev3]

Tom

I must confess, until your post, I thought it was new. It showed up under "Active Topics" for some reason. Having read your post, I now see the date. What the heck?

Yeah, Jerry had the answer. It was revived from oblivion when it was edited. I searched for it to link to it, but found that the pictures were no longer viewable because they were hosted at a site that went belly-up. I dug out the pics from my archives and uploded them to IJ.

Slightly off topic, for the last few weeks, when I click on "Active Topics" I get threads that don't seem to have changed since the last time I read them. Though, till now, none have been 4 years old. Is anyone else experiencing that?

It's been happening to me too. Sometimes they are several days old.

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  • 4 months later...

Well, after seeing that, I'm a little disturbed. I can think of countless things a person would want to hide and none of them are good. But, in 1922, prohibition was only 2 years old - so I'm placing my bets on that. I'm sure they weren't hiding a prized stamp collection.

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About 10 years ago, I inspected a 1700s house in Salem, Ma. Had a strange door and hallway??? Owner said it was dug out for the "underground railroad". Opened up across the street. I was not interested in exploring! Attic had some very strange support structure---like an upside down wooden ship. Kewl.

For our H I brethern below the Mason/Dixon line, the railroad was used to conceal the passage of slaves. AKA contraband. During the conflict known by some as "Southern Defiance" or "Northern Aggression", Massachusetts was on the railroad to Canada.

Come to think of it---Massachusetts always seems to be in the front/middle of historical stuff since 1620. Really kewl place to live.[8D]

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Well Jack oughta know...I think he's been here in MA since about 1620...[:-slaphap

To Jim's point: I find that sometimes when I click on Active topics even if I haven't checked in for a day or two, there are no new topics since my last visit, but when I change 'last visit' to 'last two days' the active topics appear. It's just an annoyance, but seems odd nonetheless.

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About 10 years ago, I inspected a 1700s house in Salem, Ma. Had a strange door and hallway??? Owner said it was dug out for the "underground railroad". Opened up across the street. I was not interested in exploring![8D]

You've got to be kidding! I'm waiting for the day when I discover a tunnel. My town has some, but so far, the few I've seen were bricked up. I've heard them referred to as Indian tunnels, their purpose supposedly being a means of escape from marauding Indians. I don't put much stock in that, because although there were Indian attacks around here, I've never read of any occurring in a town.

Nazareth tunnels

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Hah! Not right now.

Anyone else notice a sharp decline in the number of inspection requests after last week?

PS: Jim, I'm not sure if you recall me referring you to a Realtor for an inspection in the Portland hills. There was a 60's house on stilts that I didn't want to do. Anyway's, the agent told me yesterday that they are closing on the house next week, and that they chose to skip the inspection. Turns out one buyer was the local DA, while the significant other was an attorney as well. They ended up hiring a PE to go out and design a bunch of repairs for the support structure. Probably a good house not to get involved with.

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Hah! Not right now.

Anyone else notice a sharp decline in the number of inspection requests after last week?

PS: Jim, I'm not sure if you recall me referring you to a Realtor for an inspection in the Portland hills. There was a 60's house on stilts that I didn't want to do. Anyway's, the agent told me yesterday that they are closing on the house next week, and that they chose to skip the inspection. Turns out one buyer was the local DA, while the significant other was an attorney as well. They ended up hiring a PE to go out and design a bunch of repairs for the support structure. Probably a good house not to get involved with.

Hi,

Every time I drive up to Bellingham and see those houses on those 30ft long stilts on that steep hillside east of I-5 I just shake my head in wonder and ask myself, "Why?"

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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