Sanford Kellman and the chamber of secrets

February 6, 2014

By Ari Cetron

New: Feb. 6, 10:14 a.m.

A secret vault found under the remains of the Kellman house could end up costing the city a few thousand dollars.

Sammamish Parks Director Jessi Bon told the Sammamish City Council Jan. 21 there had long been rumors of a swimming pool on the Kellman property, but extensive review of the property had turned up nothing.

But after Eastside Fire & Rescue burned down the building Jan. 13, and a demolition contractor then came to finish the job, they found a nine-foot-deep concrete vault under a part of the mansion. The area was completely covered by an addition on the south side of the property and also had a concrete stairway leading down into it. The stairway was also covered by a hallway.

The chamber under the Kellman house was unusually deep and had thick walls.  Photo and illustration courtesy city of Sammamish

The chamber under the Kellman house was unusually deep and had thick walls. Photo and illustration courtesy city of Sammamish

Bon said the space looks like it could have been a pool, but the concrete walls are so thick, she theorizes it may have been intended for use as some sort of bunker.

Sanford Kellman, owner of the house who built the addition over the secret space, has no idea why it is there.

“I can’t imagine what that was for,” said Kellman from his home in California.

He said he remembered there being a padlocked area when the addition was being constructed that even he was not permitted to see.

“One day, Lars (the contractor) opened it up for me and even I was surprised,” he said.

Kellman said details about how the foundation was built weren’t the sort of thing that concerned him, so he didn’t inquire further.

“I’m more about what’s in the house, not what’s under it or around it,” he said.

Kellman was a bit surprised to hear the house had been burned down, but happy to hear it would be the site for a community center.

“Oh my god,” he said after seeing pictures of the burning house. “It all ended in a conflagration.”

This aerial photo shows the location of the addition, under which the chamber was found. The top of the photo is north.  Photo and illustration courtesy city of Sammamish

This aerial photo shows the location of the addition, under which the chamber was found. The top of the photo is north. Photo and illustration courtesy city of Sammamish

However the mystery chamber got there, the extra concrete had not been accounted for when the city inked a $64,000 contract for demolition of the house.

The city is likely going to spend up to $13,500 to have the contractor remove it.

Sammamish purchased the Kellman property, which is located directly west of the Sammamish Library, for $3.25 million in 2006. The land encompasses 9.37 acres, with the mansion and other smaller structures totaling 10,200 square feet.

Don Morkin built the house in 1978 and sold it to Sanford Kellman in 1990.

The Sammamish Community Center will be built on the property. Construction is to begin later this year.

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