Why Do Old Houses Have A Door On The Second Floor?

Most old homes had some fascinating yet perplexing features that often seem baffling to us today.

For a modern-day homeowner, one of the biggest mysteries is why many older houses had a door on the second floor. 

The upper area of the house was often used to store hay, grain and other materials. A door on the second floor could be opened up and the hay could be put inside.

Other possible explanations are that it was used as an exit door, an optional deck, or as a loft where heavy objects could be hoisted up.

Why Do Old Houses Have Doors On The Second Floor?

Old houses depicted an entirely different and unique lifestyle, compared to our modern and easy lives. Having a door on the second floor is confusing for us today. However, it served multiple purposes for people back then.

The upper area of the North American barns and houses was called the mow or hayloft. A large door was put at the second floor, at the end of the barn so hay and grains could be stored in the loft. 

Possible Explanations

These double doors are still an architectural mystery as they were not only used for storing hay. There are a number of possible theories for these doors. Let’s take a look at some of the most rational ideas:

To Move Heavy Objects 

Using a crane or pulley system, heavier objects were often moved to the second or third story of the house. A door on the upper level was made to provide access to that area.

This goes back to the days when coal fire was used to heat houses. A coal deliveryman would come on a horse cart, and use the pulley system to hoist up the heavy bags. 

On the ground floor, a man would secure the coal bags to a rope and sent it on the upper floor where a wooden door opened up.

Servants would stand here and pull up the bags and then store them in the same area. This made it easier to transport the bags and reduced the labor and time. Ice or grain was also delivered in a similar fashion.

Not all houses had these second doors, but for richer families who could afford it, this made a lot of sense.

As An Exit Door

Another explanation that is often given by grandparents who lived in these times is that the second door served the purpose of an exit door.

Sometimes in the winter, the snow would get so deep that it completely covered the first floor. In fact, if you opened the main door, all you could see was snow.

So, a second door on the upper level was a way to exit the house if there was a huge snowdrift. This theory is mostly applicable for particularly snowy areas. 

As An Optional Deck

Sometimes, the second door was installed so there was an option to build a deck or balcony at a later time.

Alternatively, maybe the deck was removed, leaving the door behind. This is one of the more modern potential reasons.

Why Did Old Houses Have So Many Doors?

In old houses, every room had a separate, designated purpose. So, there were lots of rooms and even more doors.

Having extra doors actually had a practical purpose. The ability to close the doors helped maintain the temperature of the house.

Nowadays it is more common for new houses to be open plan with multiple rooms in one, which means less doors.

More Interesting Features Of Old Houses

Ice Door

Often situated in the pantry, an ice door was an access door for the ice deliveryman in historic times.

A small area in the kitchen or pantry was kept for the icebox. You could access this door from the exterior, allowing the deliveryman to supply fresh ice without coming inside the house.

Milk Door

Milk doors once used to be the norm too. This small door was also found on the outside of the house. The milkman would come, pick up any empty bottles, and leave fresh milk here. 

Small Iron Door Leading to the Basement

There was a small door through which coal delivery men shovelled coal and provided fuel to people.

Coal delivery men would travel door-to-door to deliver it to each house. Homeowners received the coal in the basement and shovelled it directly into the furnace. This is why you might see iron doors in some older homes.

Toilet in the Basement

This interesting feature was found in the homes from the pre-World War 2 times. A lone toilet in a basement seemed quite misplaced because there wasn’t even a bathroom there.

According to legends, steelworkers and miners would use the toilets after work. Before entering the main areas of the house, they would go straight to the basement to the use the toilet and wash up first.

Root Cellar

If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, you know what this one is about. In older homes, the root cellar was located outside. You could store nuts, fruits, and vegetables here for long periods of time.

Sometimes, the root cellar was simply a room in the basement. Or, it was built separately, at some distance from the house.   

Servant Staircase

Some old houses have staircases that simply feel out of place now. Well, in much older times, households servants were often asked to stay out of sight. So, old mansions often had a separate staircase just for the servants to use.

Final Words

If you’ve noticed a strange staircase, or a random room or door in your house, you can now make a better guess for its purpose.

History is incredibly fascinating, and these little differences give us so many clues about what life used to be like.

We hope this article solved the mystery of why some old houses have second floors and many other confusing features.

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