Gilpin woman lives in subterranean house that she designed, built

Can you dig it?

Judy Quick can. The 77-year-old Gilpin woman lives in a custom-built, subterranean home.

“I mow my roof,” Quick said while giving a tour of her unorthodox three-bedroom, two-bathroom home that’s on more than 11 acres in rural Armstrong County.

She said advantages of underground living include quiet conditions, added protection from severe weather and a nearly constant indoor temperature because of the natural insulation provided by the surrounding earth.

Quick credits a bit of divine intervention, her family and determination as motivating factors for designing and building her earth-sheltered home that she’s lived in since 2003.

“I’m a Christian, and God hasn’t failed me,” Quick said of her decision to start building the home in 2001 despite the fact she earned minimum wage as a factory worker and money was tight. “I paid this house off in 2008.”

She calls her house “Moriah,” a biblical reference that she said means “vision or view.”

True to its name, the home boasts sweeping rural views, along with exposed brick running along the interior, skylights, large bay windows and tremendously low gas and electric bills.

“My gas bill this month is $18,” Quick said. “I wanted to have a home that was energy efficient.”

Average electric bills run about $40 a month. Quick said she keeps her home at a steady 75 degrees during the winter.

Quick is a one-woman farm machine, doing all of her own mowing, landscaping, gardening and chores.

She recently finished a large front patio with stones collected from her travels.

“I am proud of my mother and all of her accomplishments,” said Quick’s daughter, Rachel Quick of Shelocta.

Three walls of the home are covered in several feet of sod, as is a roof that everyone walks on, including the occasional farm animal.

“My two horses got loose one day and they ended up on Judy’s roof grazing,” said Linda Alworth, a neighbor and local business owner. “Those horses trotted over and made themselves at home. Luckily, they didn’t cause any damage. Judy was way ahead of her time building something like that underground.”

Quick said her home is much more than shelter.

“It’s a conversation topic. People pull up and say, ‘Can I see your house?’ ” she said, noting she’s happy to answer questions from curious passersby when she’s working outside.

Ample light floods the south-facing living room area, which she said is a favorite spot for pursuing hobbies such as clay working and journaling.

“It’s not dark or dingy in here, and people think it will be,” she said. “The bricks were hand-tumbled in New Wilmington, and I insisted on using brick because I didn’t want plaster walls.”

The property has a septic system, city water and four exterior pipe vents for venting the kitchen, electric dryer and gas.

“People always say my house is cool,” Quick said.

It is, literally, because it doesn’t require any air conditioning, thanks to an underground soil temperature that hovers in the 50s.

“I just use fans occasionally,” Quick said. “I have zero regrets building this home, and I plan to stay here. It’s something I can leave to my family.”

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joyce at 724-226-7725 or [email protected]

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