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. 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, stabilized the corner. 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!