Miniature of the Month

Basement of South Bend by Pat & Noel Thomas

Gardening tools and an old coal furnace in the cellar of South Bend.

When most people make an addition to their home, it’s safe to say that it is rarely a basement, but that is exactly the space that was added to South Bend when it was acquired by the KSB Miniatures Collection.

The Victorian-style miniature house was initially commissioned by the late Sarah Salisbury in the ‘70s. Typical to the style, it had a gabled roof, a turret, a huge wraparound porch and plenty of gingerbread appeal. But, unlike most of the original 1800s houses, the miniature did not have a cellar. In fact, the makers, Pat and Noel Thomas, were under strict orders to not include one because Sarah had a lifelong fear of basements. Furthermore, they were instructed to attach a lock to any door which may allude to any “terrifying” excavation that could be lurking under the house.

Preserves line the shelves in the basement. Canning lid for scale.

The Thomases were slightly dismayed with the original decision as these underground rooms were both a source of creativity and childhood memories for them. Luckily, decades later, I shared their appreciation for the space and looked forward to working with them to create my own interpretation of the home “improvement.”

Structurally, the task really was an architectural addition, as Pat describes in her blog For the Love of Basements, “It took some doing, but Noel figured out how to install a box room and stairs leading down from the now unlocked door, which would then be housed in a larger, overall base. Besides raising the house for better viewing, adding space for a yard and entry path, the expanded base, finished in oak, aids in the visual transition from miniature house to the full-scale table it sits on.”

South Bend by Pat & Noel Thomas.

Today, South Bend is part of the KSB Miniatures Collection’s permanent collection. It stands taller on its landscaped base and is fully unlocked with a door leading to a basement that is anything but terrifying. Canning jars of fruits and veggies line one wall sitting on authentically aged boards from which the shelves were crafted. Across the room, stacks of terra cotta pots and gardening tools wait for warmer weather as indicated by the bags of coal sitting in front of the old ACME furnace. All are fond memories from my childhood. The walls are perfectly imperfect brick and mortar and you can almost feel the temperature dropping as you imagine gingerly walking down century-old wooden steps.

The basement of South Bend is special because it elicits memories and emotions for all who view it. For me, I warmly envision my father making furniture and find myself craving my mother’s chutney. Others recall a protective feeling of being safe during a storm or like Sarah, a fear of the subterranean space. Pat, herself, cited an olfactory connection when creating basements in miniature, writing, “Granddad’s basement in Massachusetts was a highlight of visiting him, which I remember for a particular earthy/pungent smell—somewhere between creosote, turpentine, mold and hardwoods—an evocative and comfortable scent I still run across in friends’ workshops, garages and basements.”

The Thomases created a half dozen unique basements in their career. Some are viewable, some are not, but they are there, nonetheless, an always mysterious space that comes to life however the mind may imagine.

See more of South Bend by Pat and Noel Thomas here.

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KSB Miniatures Collection at The Kentucky Gateway Museum Center
215 Sutton Street, Maysville, Kentucky 41056 | 606-564-5865 |

Kentucky Gateway Museum Center