Mystery: Brick Wall Hole

Basement entrance (Photo: Jason McNulty)
Basement entrance (Photo: Jason McNulty)

During an extended rehabilitation, renovation or even restoration, one is liable to lost track of important details. Too many small details whizzing past too fast and for too long. The brain falters. Memory fails. Photos and lists and other archives, no matter how methodically updated, fail to contain everything.

And when the dust settles questions ferment into mysteries. One such mystery is an irregular hole in the northern exterior brick wall outside the kitchen. The bricks and mortar are old, and pockmarks are more norm than exception at Rosslyn, but the size, and depth of this hole suggest that it was intentionally bored, not the result of spalling or a rifle shot.

I put the question to Jason McNulty, son of the previous owners, and periodic visitor and Rosslyn demystifier. He considered, then suggested that he hand a hunch. He would dig through old photos and get back to me.

Today he did.

Jason emailed me the photograph above with the following explanation.

I took a few minutes to investigate the mysterious hole in the wall that we noticed beneath the kitchen window. I dug out the pictures that I had taken back in 2004, and I found two pictures of the area in question. Both were taken at a bit of a distance, and… [the camera’s] resolution wasn’t sufficient to get a crystal-clear image of the area. But, it really does look like the railing surrounding the steps into the basement does penetrate the wall in that area. ~ Jason McNulty

Although the photo is dark and a little blurry, it does indeed appear to solve the mystery.

The old basement access was removed and sealed early in Rosslyn’s rehabilitation in order to eliminate cracking that was resulting from ongoing water damage to the foundation. The roof valley directed a large volume of water into this area, hyper saturation the ground and creating freeze-thaw strains each winter.

The doorway and stairway were eliminated and the metal pipe railing slipped from my memory.

We stabilized this compromised corner by closing the exterior, sub-grade doorway (basement access) as well as another interior doorway which provided access from the oldest portion of the house into the ell. And a large concrete ballast was poured into the northwest corner of the basement to provide necessary buttressing to ensure that no further structural shifting will occur.

In the process, the doorway and stairway were eliminated and the metal pipe railing slipped from my memory. Seeing Jason’s photograph jogs my memory and confirms his hunch. Another mystery solved. Thanks, Jason!


About virtualDavis

A writer, storyteller and unabashed flâneur, George Davis (aka virtualDavis or G.G. Davis, Jr.) is the author of Rosslyn Redux: Reawakening a home, a dream and ourselves, a transmedia chronicle about rehabilitating an historic property in the Adirondacks with his bride. He blogs about storytelling, poetry, doodling, marginalia, flânerie, publishing, and other creativity-inspired esoterica at; posts sometimes exhilarating, often unnerving, occasionally euphoric, and always pollyanna "midlife mashups" at; chronicles his sailing adventures (and misadventures) at Sailing Errant; and delves into matters of parenting, babylandia, and childfreedom at Why No Kids? George formerly taught and coached at Santa Fe Preparatory School and The American School of Paris, and he co-founded and launched Maison Margaux: "Paris à la parisienne" in Faubourg Saint-Germain. He currently owns and operates Adobe Oasis in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his bride. George meanders on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr.
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