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Thread: Cellar Hole Fireplace

  1. #1

    Cellar Hole Fireplace

    You may have noticed I've not been detecting in months. Maybe you haven't, I'm kinda like Zelig, just wallpaper

    BUT the local historical society asked me to detect a cellar hole today. It's on state land and they think its some great discovery

    They sent me a map of the area and I told them I'd already been there maybe 10 times and found nothing. I've found things at other cellars in that area and when I find things I keep going back. I've been back to those holes maybe 150 times. There's a reason I've only been to their hole 10 times

    Anywho, their clearing opened a root cellar looking thing UNDER the central fireplace. It's on the level of the cellar floor, it has an opening for human access. It has what looks like a flue on top into the level of the main floor fireplace. It's the size of what would be the inside of the central fireplace commonly seen at cellar holes. My question is this- what is below the fireplace level (the cellar hole level) of central fireplace/chimneys? I always assumed it was rock piles...but apparently not.

    Was this a place where they pushed soot? The society people think it's a root cellar. I think it would be too hot for cold storage. Also, the rocks lining the walls don't seem to have any burn marks.
    Thanks!!
    PS and by Fire Place in the title I meant fireplace...I still have figured out how to edit titles lol
    Last edited by OxShoeDrew; 11-17-2023 at 05:34 PM.
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  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by OxShoeDrew View Post
    PS and by Fire Place in the title I meant fireplace...I still have figured out how to edit titles lol

    Nothing to it.

    Above your thread click on the Adminstrative pull-down menu and click on Edit Thread. You can edit the title there.

    I would love to see some photos of the features you are describing. Alas, I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to cellar holes.
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  3. #3
    I've never seen a root cellar next to a heat source either Drew. An ash pit sounds logical. How old is the building?
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  4. #4
    Thanks, Tony!!!
    The cellar hole in question is relatively old, Jeff. It's large too. Intact steps leading out the back. The still-standing house about 300 yrds away used it as a can and bottle dump in the first part of the 20th century, so I can't find anything in the cleaned out chamber, or on the cellar hole floor, too much rusted metal. Thanks!
    Last edited by OxShoeDrew; 11-17-2023 at 08:14 AM.
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  5. #5
    I'd love to see a pic of that Drew if you get the chance.
    Oldest find: 5,000 year old copper spearhead
    Oldest coin: 1699 William III halfpenny
    Purdiest coin: 1832 Capped Bust quarter
    Coolest find: USA button with blue threads still on shank

    "He who would search for pearls must dive below."

  6. #6
    Maybe they're all hollow. I just never thought about it before. I bet they pushed the soot into a hole in the back of the fireplace and it fell into the basement? There is a center hole in that chamber.
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    Last edited by OxShoeDrew; 11-17-2023 at 12:16 PM.
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  7. #7
    Elite Member Digger_O'Dell's Avatar
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    Very interesting post. I find it SO hilarious when the so-called "experts" come around and assert their "facts" to people like us who have had our noses in the most obscure historical documents and our shovels in the ground far longer then they have been around. Always drove me crazy when I volunteered at the museum and offered proof of some of their long held beliefs to be flawed, and I just got dismissed out of hand, or even worse.

    But anyway, as to your current dilemma. Without seeing the site or at least photos with something to scale the area to (such as a person) it would be difficult to even guess. But this kind of sounds like an earlier version of an area I explored with my neighbor friend's old farm house when we were kids in the '70s. My friend lived in a rented farm house that had a 1 room schoolhouse on the property along with the usual barn and other 1800s farm outbuildings. Sometime long before he had moved in the farm house had been updated, which at the time must have been in the '40s or 50's by the style it was done in. The home we found out did contain a root cellar, but the staircase from the main floor was gone, and the doorway from the main floor had been walled over. But we kids found an outside hatch just under the porch we could crawl through to gain access, and drop through to the dirt floor.

    In that root cellar we found 2 rooms. One room being the largest was lined with shelves with canning supplies on them. Heck, there were even a few dozen jars of full preserves still on the shelves. Our guess at the time was that they had to be at least 30 years old (that would make them almost 80 now!). But going through a doorway that was missing the door that had apparently once existed, there was a much smaller room that was located under the kitchen. There was evidence of what used to be a fireplace by the wrought iron door in the wall where the ash dropped down from the kitchen, to be emptied as needed. There were no shelves, but there were hooks, and lots of rusty wire and old cord hanging from them or strung across hook to hook. There was also a little bit of dried "weeds" on the floor which looking back were probably remnants of dried herbs or other plants. The room also smelled a bit like old smokehouse.

    So here's my guess based on this experience. Being a room kept under a heated area of the house was probably to dry and store herbs, veggies, etc. It's also possible that meats were hung in there as well to age or dry, possibly after already being smoked and/or salted. The room would stay cool in the warmer months, but still remain above freezing even during the coldest parts of winter.

    Let me know your thoughts on my theory.

    Edit: I was typing while the photos were posted. So let me understand. Was this structure inside the home? And there's another room under this floor?
    Last edited by Digger_O'Dell; 11-17-2023 at 01:02 PM.
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  8. #8
    Thanks so much, Chris!
    This chamber would have been in the cellar of the house. It would also have functioned as the foundation for the entire three story chimney (which is why I thought they were solid). I have to bend at a right angle to detect in there. I found pottery shards and cans and bottles in there. In 1915 this land became state land. The adjacent house (only a few 100 yrs away) must have continued dumping in this cellar hole. They must have been very space-conscious as they filled up this chamber too. Or I could be completely wrong and this house was standing until the depression...and they had all this garbage in their basement. I don't know.
    I really don't think this is some deep mystery, all these center chimneys must have been built the same. I'll look for another pic I must have posted here.
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  9. #9
    Here's a HMN site with what appears to be the same opening-
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  10. #10
    This is a good pic of the chamber.
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  11. #11
    Elite Member Digger_O'Dell's Avatar
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    Very interesting! I doubt this would have been for ashes to gather as that would have been quite the fire hazard. But for storage of items they didn't want damp or frozen, I think it would be ideal.
    Equipment:
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    2024: Silver 1, Gold 0
    Best finds: 28 silver dime spill, 1800s Dutch customs seal.
    Oldest/best coins: Late 1700's Chinese Cash Coin, 1837 Upper Canada large cent, 1877 Seated Dime
    Oldest Relic find: 1800 Sailors Luck token
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  12. #12
    Elite Member The Rebel's Avatar
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    I've been to sites like this but never figured it was for anything other than ashes but now I'd liked to know more about the design.
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  13. #13
    That's the room where they kept the mother-in-law.
    Oldest find: 5,000 year old copper spearhead
    Oldest coin: 1699 William III halfpenny
    Purdiest coin: 1832 Capped Bust quarter
    Coolest find: USA button with blue threads still on shank

    "He who would search for pearls must dive below."

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Lodge Scent View Post
    That's the room where they kept the mother-in-law.
    Maybe the mother-in-law's ashes? Sorry, too far?
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  15. #15
    Administrator del's Avatar
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    I've seen a lot of similar chimney hearths Drew ! Most that I've encountered do not have a hole or port open down to the cellar niche in a chimney hearth foundation , most fireplaces were regularly scooped out of their ash (ash and charcoal was often used for layering in the privies to keep the smells down and to mix with manure and dirt as a fertilizer ) . Split stone fireplace bases and even three stone fireplace bases are out there but most of the ones we see are the multi walled or squarish stacked stone ones usually with a large flat stone top and a niche or "small chamber" inside . If there was no hole in the roof I'm sure it was a dry storage spot as other parts of the cellar was susceptible to moisture in the springtime thaw , I've even seen many cellars with drainage troughs out the back walls for water to escape .

    this doesn't cover much on fireplaces but is and interesting read about some cellar holes and other buildings remains in New England stonewall_pub_asof_090506.indd (vermontwoodlands.org)

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  16. #16
    Thanks, Dan! There absolutely is a central hole in the roof, connecting this cellar level chamber to the first floor. When I first saw it, from inside the chamber, I said it looks like it could be closed or opened. I'll go back and take a picture of the opening.
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