Southwest Denver basement home historic district proposal: Kenny Be's Yard Arteology

The basement house pictured above is one of the few remaining examples of a historic architectural style that proliferated in southwest Denver for a brief time after World War 2. In this side view, the house looks like a dragon, with the head and neck serving as the entrance. The back view looks like a house stuck in quicksand... Basement homes were built after the end of World War 2 to meet the housing demands created by returning soldiers. Not that soldiers wanted to live in foxholes, but basement houses provided an innovative and inexpensive solution to the housing needs of young families. A young couple strapped for cash could buy a basement house and build up as their incomes and family grew.

Typically, basement houses were built of concrete, or concrete blocks, with a subfloor constructed below the low-pitched roof. Most of the people who bought basement homes removed the roof and built a house on top of the subfloor, making basement homes an extremely rare and historic housing style.

The home pictured above is one of the few examples that remain in southwest Denver. Since May is National Historic Preservation Month, what better time to suggest including this home in a Southwest Denver Basement Home Historic District. Without historic preservation efforts, the existing basement homes in Denver will fail to meet housing codes and be destroyed when the current owner decides to sell.

Below, another historic basement home in Southwest Denver that is just barely taller than a security fence... In the example pictured above, it is easy to see the many advantages of owning a basement home. Basement homeowners can perform routine maintenance -- gutter cleaning, installation of holiday lights on the eaves, painting the trim, chimney repair -- without having to purchase a ladder. If the home owner is also a gardener, the basement house casts a considerably shorter shadow and allows a greater part of the yard to have access to full sun.

The earth makes a great insulator, so less energy is required to heat and cool a basement home. Unfortunately, the subterranean placement also makes the basement home more susceptible to the accumulation of radon gas. Also, residents of basement homes often complain that the low window grade is inviting to curious cats and peeping dogs.

Below, southwest Denver's Historic Basement Home District also has an extremely rare example of a basement Fundamentalist Baptist church... The photograph above was taken on a recent Friday afternoon. The boys in the picture are sitting on the roof of the entryway to a Fundamentalist Baptist basement church located in the Mar Lee neighborhood of southwest Denver. Unencumbered by the demands of sitting in a schoolroom -- or a Baptist church service -- they are free to enjoy the childish delights of playing on the roof.

The roof of this basement church is in remarkable condition and free of the aging sag that afflicts most historic basement structures. Such maintenance suggests that the congregation is active and proud. As I was taking this picture, a smartly dressed woman standing in the parking lot was talking into her cell phone and I overheard her say, "There is one more chair available, so hurry over."

Who to believe, the excitement of the woman or the boredom of boys?

More from our Kenny Be/Comics archive: "Spring cleaning unearths clown painting, other scary garage secrets: Kenny Be's Yard Arteology."

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