Basement provides insight into the Hormel Historic Home

Published 5:21 am Saturday, November 2, 2019

There is always a lot of activity in the Hormel Historic Home basement, but we don’t often share the underground spaces of the HHH with people. So, I thought I would give you a written description of this underappreciated area. We actually have two basements and they are both somewhat organized.

Under the Carriage Hall Event Center kitchen is a poured concrete space housing typical mechanical equipment such as a fire suppression system and water softener. The largest portion of this space, however, is used for storing Christmas décor. It is virtually a forest of trees and totes containing holiday decorations in all colors, shapes, and sizes. The area is large and well-lit so our creative team of decorators can work year round to design unforgettable holiday exhibits that please all who visit. They are very busy right now!

The vast basement under the historic house is the more interesting space, though, as evidence remains of the many physical and structural changes and updates that have taken place in the house over the last 148 years. Outdated electrical wiring has been replaced but the ceramic knobs that held it are still attached to old wooden beams. Plumbing for a water closet and wash basin and the chimney for the boiler are still evident. Original brick can be seen along with limestone on the walls.

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Beneath the living room is a large space that was rumored to have been a game room for the Hormel family and was then used by the YWCA. for a meeting room. Shelving lines the east wall where the egress windows allow daylight in. The supplies that allow us to host our three autism camps are stored in this space, as are a variety of vases, dishes, and random event pieces.

Office supplies, historic archives, and objects are stored on additional shelving and in modern day filing cabinets. I admit there is also an assortment of discarded furnishings, tools and supplies that found their way down the stairs, but haven’t come back above ground.

A dirt floor crawl space with a four-foot ceiling exists under the historic library and an even smaller crawl space is under the Inglenook. I haven’t personally gone into those areas because I have an irrational fear of small dark places. But my brave coworker Luke has, and he says there’s not much to see.

Our basement is a lot like any other, but it does hold and sometimes reveal an important part of our history. Not to mention providing the foundation that keeps the place standing.

History Happy Hour: History of Mower County Veteran’s Organizations with special feature of Jay C. Hormel

  • 5:30 p.m. social/6 p.m. presentation, Monday, Nov. 11
  • Free for members of the HHH, Mower County Historical Society, or Friends of the Library. $5 for nonmembers. Presented by Dean Ulland.

Historic Treasures of the Mower County Historical Society

  • 11:30-12:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 14
  • Presented by Jaimie Timm, Curator. Join us to learn about some seldom seen treasures from the Mower County Historical Society collection. Brown bag lunches encouraged.