Our house was built in 1900, as close as the public records will tell. I know many of you are living in homes quite a bit older, especially in the U.K. and Europe, that are in much better shape than ours. The difference is where this home was built and what for. At that time in our local history, Norwich was a sizable hub for railroad traffic. Down at the East end of our street is an embankment that once looked over an large train yard with an engine turn-circle/round house. Across the street is a three-story dwelling that looks somewhat like the Munsters home—not as elaborate, but with similar architectural features. It was designed explicitly to be a boarding home for the railroad community, as was our house. But unlike the boarding home across from us, our home was build fast and with little concern for elegance or quality of construction.
All of this construction near the tracks was the Italian section. The Irish section was across the tracks to the West of us. Back in those days, you didn’t cross the tracks (neighborhood to neighborhood) without repercussions. Use your imagination on what that could entail.
The Italian section of town didn’t have the nicest homes and properties in our community. Those were on the other side of the tracks. You can see this disparity today, especially as the West side occupants have died off and large homes become fodder for slum lords happy to turn them into multiple dwelling rentals.
So that’s a brief history of the house and why it exists. The challenges I face in creating a working woodworking shop are visually obvious. Add to that a minimal amount of funds to invest in the project and you can see I will have to improvise and make due, a lot. You may have noticed the lumber on the floor. That’s what I have reclaimed so far from pallets collected in the community. Because pallet wood tends to be ash in our area, the hardwood lumber will be strong, if not pretty looking. Most of my benches will be made with this wood, using quality lumber for tops and where straightness is critical.
Last thing to mention: the spider webs. I probably should have taken some ceiling shots to show you the extensive network of cobwebs and active arachnids residing in the dungeon. I have only cleaned to the entranceway and half of the main area, to date. This will be the most difficult task for me because I have arachnophobia. That should answer your question on why has it taken so long to get the ambition up to clean up the dungeon. ;)
Here are pictures of The Dungeon. Enter at your own peril:
The outside entrance to the dungeon. This is enclosed within a two-story porch, with the back entrance to my home at my backside as I took this picture.
The foyer pathway to the dungeon. Barely noticeable in this picture is the window to the right. I have a 270 cfm variable speed fan mounted in what use to be a window.
The 270 cfm fan unit. I still have to insert the fan and motor, plus wire up the box (which will be mounted over the small hole on the left) which will house the variable speed switch. I also need to run 14 gauge wiring to the fan.
You are now entering the dungeon. Check your anti-arachnid forcefield!
Just as you walk in you are greeted by this humongous behemoth of old. It probably has been 60 years or more since this house heated with oil. It will stay there. I plan on building a studded all on the two showing sides and use the space and wall for benches and tool storage, respectively.
This is to the left of entering the dungeon. The chest freezer will be relocated to the front side of the dungeon, see in following pictures. The red supports can’t be moved, so the space between them and the coal bin wall will sport a wall lumber rack.
This is at the front end of the house, where I used to have a bike shop long ago. All my bikes (four of my own and one of my wife’s) are stored in the upstairs back porch. I will have to reorganize the this area and weed out the stuff that I really should get rid of. Still have some bikes to build, if only to sell off.
Notice the door? There is a room behind that wall that hasn’t been used in over 20 years! I plan on doing so.
To the left of the previous picture is that space I mentioned that should hold the freezer, get it out of the main work area. The metal cabinet may be kept, but probably I will get rid of it. Pretty rusty and very flimsy.
Turning 180 degrees from the previous picture, this is the view of the opening to a room that is just to the left of when you enter the dungeon. The usable space spans the entire width of the dungeon, but it has a lot of junk in it now. Lots of cleanup, new lighting…lots of work ahead of me.
I will relocate this storage shelf, probably in the room I just pointed to on the left. You can see the old steps that used to go upstairs. A bathroom now sits above it.
Entrance to the old coal bin area, North side. The floor there is bare ground mixed with decades of coal dust. No reclamation possible there. It also sports rods sticking out of the ground. Not a safe place to spend time in.
The South side entrance to the coal bin area. You can just see one of the two services. This used to be a two family dwelling, so it has two 100 amp services. Notice the cob webs? Unfriendlies!
This area is reasonably dry year round, so it will be fine for the chest freezer. If you didn’t notice early on, I have a dehumidifier running, connected to a 5 gallon bucket that I change out daily. Right now the humidity hovers between 45 and 48 percent.
The race against time is to get the table saw onto an enclosed base that will connect to a shop vac for dust collection. I can’t cut anything down there until I have a mobile collection system up, but really that is mostly closing off the bottom of the table saw. Everything else has a collection port I can connect to right now. Today will be a nice day. I will have to hall out the table saw and miter saw, plus some saw horse and portable benches to get the base done today. I hope.
-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA