Just What is This Object?

One of the great advantages of working or volunteering at Campbell House is that the opportunities for learning more never cease. While all our volunteers know a great deal about the Campbells and St. Louis, there are always subjects that someone else is an expert in. So when we encounter a conundrum that we just can’t figure out, we know exactly what to do: go to the experts. In this instance, we’re putting a call out for you, our knowledgeable and erudite visitors, members, and general fans, to help us identify…this:The Object

This object can be found in the basement beneath the parlor, and we aren’t 100% sure what it is. The exterior portion is about 44″ wide and 30″ tall from the floor. Perhaps the most unusual thing about it is that it is cut into the floor. Just how far down it extends is difficult to determine, given the build-up of sediment, dust, dirt, soot, and who knows what else (we pulled out a manual from our 2000s Restoration, and obviously there is that Coke can in there). Given what we can see, the unit is cut at least 20″ below the floor.

The container itself is pretty beat up, with a pretty big dent in the side and the metal on top torn and bent. Oddly, there seem to be two openings, one of top and covered with wood, the other on the front. There is also an uncovered gap on the front. Was it always there? Who knows?

The machinery on the inside is even more interesting. There are two “turbines” connected by a central shaft. The shaft is apparently powered either by the two motor-like objects, or by the belt pulley on the right side. Judging by the remnants of metal, the belt pulley was once cordoned off. If it is a belt pulley, what was the belt connected to? There is no obvious anchor on that side for another motor or wheel for the belt to connect to. Each of those “turbines,” meanwhile, has fins on the inside. When activated, the entire contraption would spin.

That’s what we know for sure. Museum lore (of the “I had someone on a tour once who said it was this” variety) claims the object is an air cooling unit. We know that the house had a Frigidaire of some kind in the mid-1930s, thanks to expense account references to “frigidaire air conditioning equipment”. However, our research efforts to connect this bit of trivia to the object in the basement have come to naught.

We’re willing to bet that someone out there knows what our mystery object is. Even if you don’t know for sure, maybe you have some idea on what function it serves, or how it works. Either way, we’d love to hear from you–and put one Campbell House mystery to rest.

Tagged , , , ,

2 thoughts on “Just What is This Object?

  1. james r brownlee says:

    Hello, hope to initiate my first membership for CHM this weekend. According to my genealogy hobby via Ancestry Robert Campbell is my fourth Great Uncle. Hope to visit St Louis soon. James, Florida.

  2. Dave says:

    Any such large fans would certainly be part of an HVAC system. And Frigidaire did market central A/C to private homes back in the 30s, before largely abandoning that for their window-A/C business that came soon after.

    Surely there would have been at least more remnants of it in the early 40s? No record there?

    Speaking of luxury upgrades, inclusion of a modern gas stove and oven but not one of the popular kitchen refrigerators seems an oddity for a moneyed house. But it’s plausible, with enough cash to support ice delivery, plenty of staff to prep fresh food, and an elderly client … many of which had zero interest in such an appliance back then.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: