The basement house is a concept that actually relates back to early settlement times in Utah, when families might construct expedient subterranean dwellings (dugouts) when they had few resources or little time to build an above-ground dwelling. During the 20th century, the basement house (also known as a “Hope House” because of the hope that someday it could be expanded upon), was an inexpensive means of obtaining a house for families who could not afford a larger one.
Basement houses typically consisted of a concrete floor approximately six feet below grade and formed concrete walls that rose to about three feet above grade. The roof could be either flat or gabled, although the flat roof seems to have been more common.
Typically, an exterior stairwell descended to the entry, but flat roof versions could have a rooftop entrance with an enclosed entryway projecting above the roof. Floor plans were similar to those of other houses of the era.
When financial means allowed, the owner would remove the roof and add an above-ground story, essentially turning the original portion of the house into a basement. The percentage of basement houses converted to above-ground houses is not known, since they are difficult to distinguish once they have been expanded. Early tax photos may help identify a house that has been converted from a basement house.