This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 18, 2010 11:54 PM. The previous post in this blog was Happy anniversary, baby -- got you on my... mi-i-i-i-ind. The next post in this blog is Dude, you're all like busted. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Monday, January 18, 2010

What's under your backyard?

It's something definitely worth knowing.

Comments (13)

Ugh, how horrible. So agreed, worth knowing. But OK then, how does your basic buyer or renter go about finding out? Were these ever documented in official records somewhere?

There are some folks who specialize in local history on an amateur basis. Up here in Northeast there are several. They might be able to tell us where the water used to be. But as for an official source, you're right -- I doubt there is one.

Maybe a dowser could walk the yard and see what he or she can sense.

That almost happened to me back in 1975.
At a house at 88th off Holgate I had mistakenly built an addition over a cesspool. Same type, very deep and brick lined.

The inspector located it and said have to dig down to the lid, open it up, fill it and install a new one in the front yard.

I was there, alone, inside the enclosed addition inside a hole I had cut in the floor. While beating on the concrete dome cesspool cap it gave way and I barely caught myself and avoided falling into it.

It was very deep but mostly empty having not been used for over a year.

It took forever to fill by what seemed like 100s of wheel barrel loads up a ramp, through the door and to the hole, one by one. I must confess I ended up using a few bulky items to take up space in the hole.

We found one of those under the cement in an old parking garage in the NW section of town during a remodel.

The old Sanborn insurance maps you can get copies of from the library might show something, although not if the cisterns were already covered when the inspectors visited. They are kind of fun to look at regardless, if you're a history geek.

Heard two stories on the Belmont bus this morning about identical issues on properties in S.E.
Old wells not filled in but covered over with planks and dirt. I have a weird depression in my front yard about 2-3 feet wide.

Tom, you might want to check that depression out...Those cisterns/wells/cesspools are dangerous.

Portland maps lists the applications to the Fire Bureau from 1936-1990 for underground residential storage tanks (typically for heating oil). While these wouldn't likely have the safety issue of a cistern (sudden collapse combined with inability to escape), they can have financial liability if they leak.

Too late, all you map/history/document seekers. I sense a huge coverup in the works. Now all those maps etc will cost you $57.00 per page and you will need to be supervised while you study them! AND you will end up on commissioner Steroid's HIT list if you make any waves....

I suppose filling in all these old wells, cisterns, cesspools, swales, depressions, etc., would violate some arcane Environmental Services regulation and bring down the wrath of the city.

Many times several decades ago these cesspools, after sewer hookups were required in a neighborhood, became garage dumps, especially during the depression. Sometimes homeowners even dug deep pits just for the garbage. They didn't have garbage service or no money to pay for it.

This occurred on a SW Portland condo project, where the cesspool became a garbage dump after a 1920's hookup. The excavation company had a field day going through all the old glass bottles and other goods that had quite a bit of value.

Not only are those Sanborn Maps available for FREE from the library, but you can look to your hearts content either online from your own computer or at a REFERENCE terminal in the library (meaning you do NOT have to wait to use the Internet at the library, and you can sit for longer than an hour). When you log onto the library main page, click on "Research" up top, then select "Databases A-Z" - go to "s" for Sanborn Maps.

I love looking at those maps!

A "pump and fill cesspool" is described in a 1977 Bureau of Buildings permit on portlandmaps, historic permits, #2, page 5 of 6. Not hard to find. Check your historic permits, folks. :(

Clicky Web Analytics