(Ignore the shiny duct in the background)
We have been asking anyone and everyone who ventures into the basement if they know what this contraption is or was used for. It appears to be a large, slightly trapezoidal concrete foundation for something that bolted to the top. We've asked electricians, plumbers, miscellaneous contractors, older men of "that" generation, etc. Many people have had suggestions, but no one could identify it.
Until this morning, when the elderly gentleman who was born and grew up here stopped by for a visit. I asked him, fearing he may not even know what I was talking about and certainly wouldn't be able to navigate the basement stairs to investigate. But he certainly did know. It's a remnant of the Delco-Light Plant!
Now, if that doesn't mean anything to you (as it didn't to me in that moment), let me "enlighten" you! (Ha ha, that pun is really funny, as you'll see in a minute.) Back in the '20's and '30's, less than 10% of rural Americans had electricity. So DELCO (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company) created a gas powered engine and belt-driven generator that charged a set of batteries to power a house on 32 volts DC.
See the little concrete pad it's perched on? Just like ours!
As I sit here with my 200 amp electrical service and multiple breaker boxes and subpanels, it's amazing to remember how new electricity really is. Next time I complain about only having two or three outlets in the bedroom, I'll be thankful I'm at least not sleeping over a gas engine in the basement with a shelf full of batteries I have to charge and change!