In the Bay Area it is not uncommon for the first floor of homes built from Victorian times through the mid-1910s to be elevated quite a lot above grade. I hesitate to call the space under these houses a “crawl space” because often one could walk around fully upright within them. It also does not seem quite accurate to describe it as a basement because these spaces are frequently completely above grade. What is certain is that elevating the living space this much certainly added to the cost of these homes. Not only is there all of the additional framing materials, but there is also additional siding, longer chimneys, and sometimes very large stairways to get to the living spaces.
The reason for all of this extra work is somewhat of a mystery. Whether this feature was due entirely to fashion (verticality was important in Victorian times) or was an attempt to raise the living space higher above seasonally damp soil conditions is up for debate. It has even been suggested that it is simply a holdover from colder climates where basements were necessary to allow pipes to enter the building below the frost line. Whatever the case, the trend seems to peter out as we move into the twenties, and the space under homes diminishes until it may very accurately be called a “crawl-space” and then disappears altogether shortly after that.
The Alameda Victorian we feature today is a good example of one of these elevated homes. As you can see, in this case the “basement” level has been recently converted to living space, but all of the original home is on the top level. That is where you will find all of the wonderful original millwork and light fixtures that one would hope to see in a home of this vintage. The bathroom on this floor is particularly noteworthy for its intact period details.