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Mama_Cakes's avatar

Basement in an 1850's home (with an older bathroom - clawfoot tub and all). Why a bathroom in the basement?

Asked by Mama_Cakes (11154points) July 20th, 2012

May seem like an odd question, but this is a large 3 story home built in 1850. Tucked in the basement (which has many rooms), behind a wall is a bathroom (toilet paper holder still on the wall). Would a family use the bathroom downstairs? Perhaps, the servants???

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21 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Could be for the servants. Or whoever else is down there.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Paint barely on the walls, old hooks on the walls..

YARNLADY's avatar

If the downstairs room was a children’s playroom or a bedroom, a bathroom is almost a necessity. When my grandfather refinished his basement the first thing he put in was a bathroom, which got a lot of use during the rest of the job.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I should take a picture.

WestRiverrat's avatar

In many old houses they put the new indoor plumbing in where if would fit. If there was no room upstairs for the bathroom when they put it in it is entirely possible that is where they put it.

It could have been an additional bothroom for the servants if there were any. Or it could have been put there so the mud and grime was washed off there before someone came into the house proper.

janbb's avatar

There was a toilet in a basement in my parents’ home and a half-moon cut-out in the door.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Here are a few shots of the room.

Photo 1

Photo 2
Photo 3 (wall around the corner from the toilet)

SpatzieLover's avatar

My grandparents also had a toilet in the basement. It’s completely normal for that age of a home. Families put them in basements for various reasons. Our family had one down there so you could keep your dirty shoes on, since you could walk directly downstairs from the back (garden side) door.

Nullo's avatar

Might help the water pressure, too.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s just nasty! But once upon a time they just did things. They just stuck them in, didn’t read House Beautiful before they did it. I dated a farmer in college. Back home on his parent’s dairy farm they had a shower in the barn. I don’t know why, but I had to take a shower in there, instead of in the house. Oh man, it was nasty! Dead flies, spiders, spider webs with dead flys in them all over the wall. But it worked.

gailcalled's avatar

The house in which I grew up was built in 1929 and had real plaster walls, real tiles in the upstairs bathrooms and real slate roofs.

In the basement was a finished playroom, a laundry room and a boiler room where we hung our wet mittens and hats in the winter. Also a damp and unlovely room with a sink and toilet. It was also the entrance to the attached garage. It seemed a natural part of the area.

The full bath on the first floor was attached to the “maid’s room,” so when company had to use the toilet, they went upstairs to the one on the landing that we three children shared. My parents had a private bathroom with an exotic stall shower that we were allowed to use occasionally.

filmfann's avatar

One possible explanation is that they built this to make homemade alcohol, and the toilet was just to make it look legit..

Sunny2's avatar

Perhaps it was the first incarnation of what we call a mud room. Husband has a very dirty job; kids play in the mud; bathe before coming upstairs. Or perhaps hobos passing through town on freight trains needed a place to clean up and the family was generous. Or they had a crazy Uncle Zeke, who wasn’t continent, stay with them when he was away from the asylum.
I like @filmfann‘s hidden still.

Seelix's avatar

Maybe they put it there so they could scare the bejeezus out of a lovely lady in 2012.

But really, I think it was probably intended for servants’ use, or maybe the house was used as a boarding house back in the day?

DrBill's avatar

this was done in some houses in the coal/oil fields areas so they could come home from work, go directly to the basement and get cleaned up before entering the main house.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Found out, this house was a boarding house for railway workers.

Seelix's avatar

Booya! Nailed it :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@DrBill Booya. My husband was raised in coal country (Pittsburg, Kansas) and there is a shower in his Dad’s basement. I don’t think it works. Let’s see what he has to say….

Buttonstc's avatar

Well that is definitely one creepy scuzzy looking basement. Plus there’s a toilet but no tank. Interesting.

Jenniehowell's avatar

Servants back in the day were generally in the basement for their work duties. Due to lack of electricity & running water etc. often times the downstairs area was used not only as kitchen space for the actual cooking but for storage of certain items due to temperature factors & there was often an outside door access to a water source outdoors. The servants depending on the size of the house may have had their living quarters downstairs as opposed to being in a separate building.

ibstubro's avatar

If it was a boarding house, the basement might have been finished to let out to the ‘coloreds’.

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