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What is this very small doors/openings in old house? Any idea?

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What is this very small doors/openings in old house? Any idea?

r/whatisthisthing - Very small doors/openings in old house

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My MIL bought this house built in the early 1900s in  Denver. On the first floor there are these two doors. One leads to the basement and the second leads outside from the kitchen. They are very small, about the height of a soda can.

Some of the answers:

My only guess was having an open house rat or bunny, or they wanted you to think they gave the house nice doors

Agree, it’s a cat door. Plenty big enough for many cats to slink through.

Doors for a model train set

I have seen these used as extension cord cut outs, with the door there to keep cold out. It is also useful for brining a hose through to get water out of or to something (like a cistern, well, something like that.) Not sure if that is the original purpose, but that is what they are used for now. Source: I also own a home from the early 1900’s

In Scandinavia we’re big on having little doors like that, for the elves. You know, Santa’s helpers. We will decorate them for December, to great pleasure for all the children. Then shut them up the rest of the year. They look a lot like this.Look up “nisse døre” on Google and you’ll see very similar results.

Cat door. Most cats can fit through, most dogs (and children) can’t.I’m actually considering installing one in my house, but it’s just a piano hinge that you put in the bottom of the door. You cut a bit off at a 45 degree angle, install the hinge between the rest of the door and the piece, and then you have a corner you can fold up when you want the cat to pass through, or fold down when you don’t. When I’m away, I have to block my dog from getting into my basement where my litter box is, so right now it means locking the cat in the basement.

Thomas Jefferson built holes in his upstairs doors so his cats could freely move around to switch vermin. Reminds me of that

It’s a cat door. My first house had them. Couldn’t try them out personally since I’m allergic to cats.

It might just be decorative for fun by a previous owner, making a cartoon-style mouse door with a little cute hatch.

As someone who recently moved out of an old house with these, yes, it’s a cat door. For those saying it’s too small, you either own a giant cat or you have never had cats. The only other alternative, pending the age of the house and which door it’s on, is that it’s a door for a hose to the basement. Several much older houses I’ve been in also had those.

I suspect they had an oil furnace at one time and the access was difficult for filling up the tank. Tank was in the basement and the shortest way was through the kitchen. Is the kitchen close to the road?

maybe a dust door sweep the floor, open the door and sweep it inI used the volunteer at a Victorian mansion/museum there was a door in the baseboard for this purpose on each floor. There was a little trash can in the basement to catch it at the bottom of the chute .

Here’s a similar thread I found from a few years ago that has some ideas.

I believe it was part of a vacuum system. They were popular back in the day. Capital building in  Washington DC has them. You would hook a hose and wand attachment up the ductwork then turn it on. Duct work would be attached to the vacuum system which was probably in the basement of house and it would have a lid that clipped on the top of a metal barrel or cannister.

I think this set of doors, was so that a hose could go from the basement, out the kitchen door, and a pump could be used to de-flood the basement during spring thaw. With this setup, you could just have the whole thing ready and even running at night if it needs to, and you could still lock up.

It might be a mouse door. I was asked to build one into a baseboard once. I put a little stained glass in the door and motion sensing lights inside. Look up mouse house on pin you will see some examples

What do you think? Let us know in the comment!

Read Also: What are these glass things attached to the cieling? They’re all over the house by the windows. House was built between 2010-2015.

Have you ever wandered through an old house and stumbled upon a tiny door or opening, seemingly out of place amidst the regular-sized ones? These diminutive entrances, often overlooked or dismissed as mere quirks of architecture, hold a rich tapestry of history and tradition waiting to be unraveled. From folklore to practicality, these small portals whisper tales of the past, offering glimpses into bygone eras and the lives of those who inhabited these spaces. So, what exactly are these small doors or openings, and why do they exist? Let’s embark on a journey to uncover their secrets.

The World of Hidden Passages

One of the most enchanting aspects of old houses is their propensity for secrets. Behind ornate wallpapers and beneath creaky floorboards, hidden passages lie in wait, teasing the imagination with the promise of adventure. Small doors and openings often serve as entrances to these clandestine pathways, leading to concealed chambers or connecting different parts of the house. Historically, these passages were used for various purposes, ranging from facilitating servants’ movements without disrupting the household to providing escape routes during times of danger.

Folklore and Superstition

In many cultures, small doors and openings in houses are imbued with symbolic significance, steeped in folklore and superstition. Legends abound with tales of fairy folk, gnomes, and other mystical creatures who purportedly used these miniature entrances to access human dwellings. In European folklore, for instance, it was believed that fairies inhabited the nooks and crannies of homes, entering and exiting through tiny portals hidden from mortal eyes. Some cultures constructed these small doors deliberately to appease these mythical beings or ward off malevolent spirits, a practice rooted in ancient traditions of animism and animistic beliefs.

Architectural Necessity

Beyond the realm of myth and legend, the presence of small doors and openings in old houses often serves practical purposes rooted in architectural design and functionality. In centuries past, houses were constructed with meticulous attention to detail, with every feature serving a specific purpose. Small doors might lead to storage spaces beneath staircases or provide access to utility areas such as crawl spaces or attic storage. These openings were not merely decorative but essential components of the house’s layout, designed to optimize space utilization and facilitate maintenance tasks.

Children’s Passageways

In some cases, small doors and openings were deliberately installed to cater to the needs and imaginations of children. These whimsical features transformed ordinary spaces into magical realms where youngsters could retreat into their own worlds of make-believe. Hidden alcoves or miniature doors in playrooms or bedrooms sparked creativity and encouraged imaginative play, turning the mundane into the extraordinary. Such architectural elements not only added charm to the house but also nurtured the creativity and wonder of its young occupants.

Preservation and Restoration

As the march of time inexorably erodes the vestiges of the past, preserving and restoring old houses become paramount in safeguarding our cultural heritage. Small doors and openings, often overlooked or neglected, are integral parts of these historical structures, embodying the stories of generations past. Restoration efforts aimed at maintaining the authenticity and integrity of old houses must include careful attention to these architectural details, ensuring that they continue to enchant and captivate future generations.


In the labyrinthine corridors of old houses, small doors and openings beckon with the allure of mystery and intrigue. Whether serving as gateways to hidden passages, repositories of folklore, or practical elements of architectural design, these diminutive entrances are threads in the rich tapestry of our built heritage. As we traverse the threshold of time, let us cherish and preserve these treasures, for they are not merely relics of the past but windows to worlds unseen, waiting to be discovered and cherished anew.

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