Columbia Heights couple find hidden room in home that is nearly 100 years old

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A Columbia Heights couple is trying to figure out the reason for a secret room they discovered at their nearly 100-year-old house.

The mystery room is located to the side of the entryway, accessible from the outside by a hole in the home’s foundation.

"It feels like there’s this whole mini-adventure unfolding right on our own property," Mo Perry said. "It was right underneath us this whole time, this strange thing we never even knew about."

The house was built in 1923.

Perry said she bought the house in 2011. The room was not mentioned at that time or found during the inspection.

They found the room Friday after contacting pest control about a recent problem with mice.

"The pest control guy was like, ‘I’m going to look around and fill any entry points.’ And within 15 seconds, he was like, ‘You guys should come out here!" Perry said.

"The first thing he noticed was that we had a sheet of plywood nailed against our foundation," said Perry’s husband, Quinton Skinner. "Behind that was a bunch of construction materials kind of piled up, which was really strange. I found what was basically a double-paned old window as part of the foundation that I was able to pull completely out and then we got a flashlight and shone it down there and realized there was an entire room under our house that we never knew existed."

Skinner said the room contained some antique items, including a chair and three rusty typewriters.

The typewriters were an especially strange find, considering both Perry and Skinner are professional writers.

"I’m working on a ghostwriting project right now and I’m kind of thinking like, this gives ghostwriting a whole new sense, these ghostly typewriters existing right underneath us and we never knew," Perry said.

In another eerie coincidence, Skinner said he wrote a book 15 years ago entitled "Amnesia Nights," which includes a scene where a character hides a secret stash in the basement.

Skinner said it was also strange that the keys on the rusted typewriters that were in the best shape were the ‘M’ and ‘Q,’ their initials.

They said they are trying to reach out to children of the home’s former owners to see if they know anything about the secret room.

In the meantime, they are receiving many comments about the space on social media.

"People are like ‘This is my childhood dream finding a secret room in the house,’ and all these elaborate theories about what it was and why it was sealed off," Perry said. "From the inside of the basement, you can’t see that anything was ever there. It’s just a concrete wall."
5 EYEWITNESS News contacted an architectural expert for some perspective on the purpose of the room.

"There’s a long history of hidden rooms in buildings that have a variety of purposes," said Tom Fisher, a professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota and director of the Minnesota Design Center.

He said, given that the house was built in the 1920s, there could be several explanations.

"It could either be storage of coal for heat, or cold storage rooms that were outside the house to be in some sense an outdoor freezer in winter," Fisher said.

He said some homes in the 1920s were also built with hidden rooms that opened to the outside for easy access to stashes of illegal alcohol.

"It was not uncommon in the Prohibition era for there to be the storage of alcohol where others would come and get it," Fisher said. "That would be my hunch given the date of the house."

Fisher said it is also possible the owners just used the space for general storage.

"Maybe they were just a collector of typewriters and ran out of room in their basement and wanted another place to store them. That’s possible too," Fisher said. "But I do think this is a fascinating topic. I think the idea of a hidden room and something mysterious happening in a house is something that resonates with a lot of people."

Perry and Skinner said they have found antique items stashed in other parts of the house as well, such as rolls of piano music.

They said they will seal off the secret space, due to concerns over pests and weather damage.

Before closing off the room, they plan to drop some of their unused electronics into it, such as an old Apple TV and old MacBook.

"We’ll make it our own little updated time capsule for whoever manages to get in there next," Perry said.