Sunday, June 27, 2010

Info, Anyone??

I got an interesting email the other day that included this:

I have a memory of a specific house that I saw as a young girl in the late 50’s and 60’s. My sister mentioned your name as an option to start my curiosity is a bit of the story...

I have lived in Oregon since my birth in 1949, we lived outside of Portland. In 1958 we moved to the Crow area, and then in 1959 to Bailey Hill (out west 11th). From the time of 1958-through the later 60’s we drove from west Eugene to Sweet Home. I had two aunts that lived in Sweet Home and we regularly drove the back roads to go visit them. This was before I-5 was built. So somewhere along HWY 99 or a byway we would see these homes that were built mainly into the ground. The roof was clearly visible...they were ranch style...and about 3-5 ft of the house structure was also visible with windows.

No one else remembers them...and my parents are long deceased. At that time our parents would tell us that they were “Mennonite Homes” and being buried like that was part of their religion. I have asked my two aunts that used to live in Sweet Home...who are now in their 90’s and they think I am making this up.

So I was wondering, do you know of any information that would ease this curious mind? I would appreciate any help. I have spend hours on the internet and learned lots of great things..but alas nothing about these buried/earthen homes.

I am completely stumped. The other day at a birthday lunch I asked about this and no one including 83-year-old Great-Aunt Berniece, who has lived around here forever, knew a thing about it.

If you have any insights, please comment.

Quote of the Day:
"Whoa. You can think about retiring."
--Steven, to Amy, who had her 22nd birthday on Friday


  1. Completely clueless about the house thing... but I wanted to say how much I enjoy your "quote of the day." So often funny/sad/profound things are said and they just drift off forever into the great beyond: forgotten almost as quickly as they were said. It seems like a wonderful discipline to capture and save them- plus we all get to enjoy them too! Thanks for sharing☺

  2. My guess is that the houses may have been there, but she was given wrong information about them being built by Mennonites.

  3. Mother Earth News has an extensive feature on their web site called Down to Earth Homes. I'm not sure how anyone could get "Mennonite" out of "Mother Earth," but an active imagination might manage it.

  4. "Earth sheltered" is the usual term for this style of house building.

    Did any large groups of Mennonites immigrate directly from Europe to this region? In Kansas, some of the areas settled by such groups have very uniform, low-to-the-ground houses and barns. They purposely made them alike for the sake of efficiency in construction. The ones I have seen were built above grade, however. The dugouts in use in some of the treeless prairie states might also have created a precedent for some of this house-building style. But part of the Mennonite religion????? Nah......

  5. In the rural non-mennonite area where I grew up we simply called them basement houses. Wise thrify people who didn't want to go into debt for a house simply built a cement block basement complete with bathroom and kitchen and topped it with a big black flat roof. Later when they had money they finished the house.

  6. I agree with the anonymous comment ahead of me. I have a married friend, not from OR, and her husband built their house that very way. You can see only the roof and part of the wall from 3 sides...the front looks very normal. =) -Gina S.

  7. Maybe the were M-Mormon homes not M-Mennonite homes