Weird Circles In The Floor Of Century-Old House Leads Homeowner To Uncover A Buried Treasure

Remodeling a home or building can be a far more rewarding experience than buying a brand new one. Doing a little hands-on work on an old home can also reveal a certain character or history that new homes don’t often have. Case in point: this house in Ballston Spa, New York.

When Sue Hansen and her husband, Dr. James Hansen, remodeled an early-20th century home, Sue noticed some odd marks on the floor. Curious, the couple dug a little deeper—literally—and discovered something surprising hidden within the floorboards!

For 14 years, a dentist named James Hansen worked out of a first-floor office at 68 Milton Avenue in Ballston Spa, New York. In 2011, he and his wife Sue, below, bought the entire two-story building, which led them to make a bizarre discovery.

Over the decade-and-a-half that James had worked in the building, no one paid much attention to the second floor. “The upstairs was always just for storage, empty,” Sue told The Daily Gazette. That all changed in 2014.

Sue Hansen / Google+

The Hansens started renovations on the building in 2014, wanting mainly to turn that unused second story into a beautiful apartment. But when their contractor ripped out some of the century-old flooring, he noticed something curious.

Sue Hansen / Google +

Underneath that old and worn first layer of wood panel flooring was a second layer of paneling. This layer featured strips of wood that alternated between light and dark—and that reminded the contractor of something…

CBS6 Albany / YouTube

The hidden floor looked, to the contractor, like the type of floor you’d see at a bowling alley! Sure enough, as the contractor pulled up more pieces of the floor, he found more evidence of his theory.

Funtastic Gainesville Bowl

On the far end of the apartment, 10 metal disks were arranged in a pyramid formation. These disks had holes in them that allowed little pegs to pop through the floor. And their purpose?

CBS6 Albany / YouTube

That would’ve been to hold bowling pins, of course! Indeed, as Sue did more research on the building and the property she owned, she found that it had been a “candlepin” bowling alley, similar to—though smaller than—the one pictured here.


In candlepin bowling, the pins were narrower and taller, and the ball was a bit smaller, too. Pegs operated by a foot pedal held the pins in place so that bowlers had a consistent perfect pyramid of pins every time. But the craziest part?

CBS6 Albany / YouTube; Sue Hansen / Google+

No previous owner of the building at 68 Milton Avenue had removed the original bowling lane apparatus! And after nearly a century, the foot pedal that operated the pin resetting device still worked. That had big implications.

CBS6 Albany / Youtube

Technically, the Hansens could still play a full game of candlepin bowling all those years later—1909 style. To Sue’s delight, there were actually three fully functioning bowling alleys, side by side, just hiding all those years! Naturally, that made Sue curious…

Marc Schultz / Daily Gazette

Sue wanted to know who had installed the bowling alley up there and if anything historically significant had happened in the building. Her curiosity led her into quite the rabbit hole…

CBS6 Albany / YouTube

During her research, Sue found that, in 1901, a fire destroyed a three-story home that once stood on the site. On its ashes, a man named Herbert B. Massey built Sue’s future property—and it was exceptional for its time.

CBS6 Albany / YouTube

The second floor of the H.B. Massey Building housed the bowling alley, and the first floor was a tavern and restaurant. Herbert Massey had essentially built an early-20th-century version of Dave and Buster’s!

Kansas City Star

The building had “been a lot of things through the years,” Sue said. And she wasn’t kidding. Since those early years, the first floor had come to serve as an office for the Boy Scouts, lawyers, and of course, a dentist. But Sue said she “never imagined a bowling alley and restaurant.”

Sue also learned that the original Massey Cafe and Restaurant regularly hosted events in the tavern, such as Democrat Party fundraising events. In order to quiet any noise from the bowling alley, the space between the floors was made unnaturally deep and filled with loose cinder.

CBS6 Albany / YouTube

Sue dug into the history of Herbert B. Massey himself, too. “He’s such a character,” she said. “He was kind of on the edge of being illegal, but at the same time from what I’ve read, he bordered on being a neat freak.” There was no doubt that he had a colorful history…

Sue Hansen / Google+

An eccentric man, Herbert lost a liquor license for selling alcohol on Sunday, allowed illegal gambling in his establishments, and even once sued the city because a tree fell on his car.  Sue couldn’t believe that all of this history was tied to her building.

Sue Hansen / Google+

So what did Sue do with the bowling alleys? Well, she wasn’t going to let the legacy of H.B. Massey fade away! Despite renovating the entire second floor into a beautiful luxury apartment, she found a unique way to preserve the building’s roots…

Sue Hansen / Google+

Sue decided to keep one entire lane of candlepin bowling in the kitchen, complete with a working pin-setting apparatus. This way, apartment tenants could bowl like it was 1910!

Sue Hansen / Google+

When Sue and her husband set out to renovate their property, they had no idea that they’d uncover such a fascinating piece of history hiding literally right under their noses. Just watch their stunning discovery below…

A candlepin bowling alley is a pretty nifty find. Now that it’s restored, it almost looks too nice to actually use for bowling!

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