Some folks grow up in mansions. Others in modest houses. And some grow up in little more than a hole in the ground.
That was the case for Marvin Baskett and his sister, Esther Redington.
The house is barely taller than the 4-foot-high chain link fence surrounding the yard.
It sits at the southwest corner of Iowa Avenue and Yampa Street, just east of Queen Palmer Elementary School. Here is a map from FlashEarth showing the area:
It was built in 1947 by their father, Raymond Baskett, and home for years to the Baskett family: Raymond and his wife Beulah and their three children, Esther, Leatha and Marvin.
It looks like the house was swallowed by the ground. Protruding from the back of the roof is a covered doorway that leads down into the house. Here’s Marvin at the “front door” to his childhood home.
Originally, there was no covered doorway, just an open stairwell down into the two-bedroom house. It had a living room and kitchen, running water and electricity.
But it was heated by a pot-bellied stove and they cooked on a wood-burning iron stove. The bathroom was an outhouse in the backyard. Ice was delivered every other day until 1951 when the family got a refrigerator and buried a natural gas line and installed a furnace.
Raymond was in construction and built several of the small bungaloes in the area of Iowa Avenue and Yampa Street. He planned to build an entire house above the basement. But he cut off a finger during construction. The resulting medical bills drained the family’s savings so the house was never finished, Marvin Baskett said.
It really wasn’t out-of-place in Knob Hill a working-class neighborhood east of downtown Colorado Springs and the intersection of Platte Avenue and Union Boulevard.
It’s one of those places the developed after World War II without much in the way of building codes. It was unincorporated El Paso County and home to folks of modest means.
Some oldtimers say Knob Hill‘s major artery, Platte Avenue (a.k.a. U.S. Highway 24) resembed the two ends of Nevada Avenue, where small motels and shops were built on the outskirts of the city.
In recent years, residents and business owners formed the Platte Avenue Business & Neighborhood Association, which has worked to improve the area with new medians, sidewalks, curbs and gutters among other projects.
Here are a couple more photos of the Baskett family home.
Here’s a look at a couple other nearby basement houses.
This one is on the northwest corner of Alexander Road and Cache La Poudre Street. For decades, it had a free-standing door at the back, visible on the left, leading down to the house. A few years ago, a house was built atop the basement.
The building below is just down Iowa in Otis Park and has served as a community center.