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Cape Cod Banking up Cape Cellars

In past times Cape Cod houses had no cellar beneath their main body. That left part of the house exposed below to the open air. When cold weather was seen coming, when leaves began turning and apples ripened, Cape Cod folks would give heed.

The open part below the house would have to be banked up, all around, to keep out the rain, snow and cold.

Banking up consisted of putting together stones and sod or mud and so making a sort of wall wherever there was an opening under the house. This wall would reach up to the outer floor beams of the house, and it would be quite thick for strength.

Tamped firm and tight, it would serve as well as a stone or cement foundation, and could be removed when warm spring days returned, so that the confined area might be well aired and “dry rot” prevented.

Banking up is not by any means an abandoned custom, for there are many small Cape Cod houses which have no complete and deep cellars.

Often old-time Cape Codders used seaweed for “banking up”. The seaweed banking would slowly rot over the winter, giving off some heat. In Spring when the weather warmed the seaweed was used to fertilize the garden.

In these modern times, there are still many old Cape houses that have no cellar under part of them (mine included). Banking up today is usually done with sheets of styrofoam insulation. In other parts of the country, like in Vermont for instance, I have seen many houses banked up with straw or hay bales. Most often this is done by applying plastic sheeting from the ground up to about three feet high around the house and placing hay or straw bales against the plastic. This keeps out drafts and keeps the snow from piling up against the house and transferring cold through the walls.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 06/20/06
Categories: HistoryHouses
Keywords: architecture, cape cod house, history


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