Two days ago I posted the story about the hidden room in my basement. Local resident Nancy Green posted on Facebook she had the same thing and had poked a flashlight to see if she could find anything odd. Well now, It makes total sense what it is. It is located directly under the front verandah, and very common in older homes. It definitely used to be a cistern.
Cisterns were used for the collection of rain water, and were quite common at homes throughout the 19th century. They can also be found at a few 18th century homes and some were built as late as the early 1940s. Using the roof as a rain collection surface, gutters and downspouts delivered water to the cistern.
Most of them were a large rectangular box located under a porch, with the porch floor being the cover. Before the floor of the porch was replaced we used to have th remains of what was once a trap door. There were many folklore “rules” governing when and how water was to be collected if you wanted it to stay “sweet”. Built to catch rainwater, which was then used for domestic chores. Of course it became doomed by indoor plumbing.
The success of indoor plumbing initiated the demise of cisterns, which became white elephants with the abundant flow of water from kitchen and bathroom faucets. Cisterns were eventually filled with unwanted items, buried and forgotten and walled over like ours. The fact that cisterns have remained virtually undisturbed, in some instances for hundreds of years, can we consider them archaeological finds?
Apparently some of them (not ours) are steeped in treasures, such as ceramics, coins, tintype photographs and food particles, that can tell archaeologists about what people of the time liked to buy and eat. You have to remember when my home was built in 1867 the local water probably smelled bad and people got sick. The early settlers associated rainwater with freshness and thought cisterns might be the long-term answer. So should we really consider these rooms archaeological finds? That’s hard to answer as I am sure in a few hundred years people will dig up tanning beds and think we used to fry people for punishment.
Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place