Greendale Historical Society

Preserving appreciation of Greendale, Wisconsin, one of only three American Greenbelt communities.

No Basements?

Village designers viewed basements as “old fashioned, unnecessary and expensive.”

One Village planner stated, “We have the furnace in a utility room on the first floor with the laundry. The housewife has to do most of the coal shoveling and is is more convenient to have it handy. She can tend the furnace, do the washing, keep an eye on the cooking and watch the children without going up or down stairs.”

Instead of basements, Greendale Originals have crawl spaces. Crawl spaces have dirt floors. They were built with a hatch type door (usually in a closet) leading to the crawl space. There are no stairs and a ladder is usually lowered into the crawl space for access.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was no fan of the placement of the coal bins. She first visited Greendale while it was under construction on November 11, 1936. During the tour she is famously reported to have commented that the coal bin had been placed next to the laundry tubs and persauded architects to change the plan.

“I visited the Greendale Resettlement project which has a delightful site and is I think a really good development,” Roosevelt later wrote. “I wish, however, that every group of architects would have a woman sit at their elbow to advise on such minor details as the proper placing of things which she uses daily in her work. These details seem insignificant but they make all the difference in the ease with which work is accomplished and therefore in the happiness of the woman in the family.”