Traditionally, basements have been used to store food and wine. The low temperatures in these underground rooms made it possible to preserve some products for longer, even in times when the refrigeration options we have today were not yet invented.
It was not until the 1950s that Americans began remodeling their basements using concrete floors (which was definitely an improvement at the time!) and then progressively turn their basements into living spaces with various destinations. Since then, designing and finishing these rooms became more and more important, and now they add value to the house. Besides, it is easy to extend down into the basement, when it is difficult to expand outwards.
However, history shows that basements did not always exist in every area of the US; they were mostly common in regions with dry weather.
Early basements (those rudimentary spaces used for storage) were simple and uninsulated, so mold and mildew used to be common problems; only later, drainage and air circulation started to be incorporated into basement construction projects. Even nowadays, when you consider remodeling an old basement, you may have to go back to basics (ventilation and waterproofing), to protect your investment and ensure your comfort. Seek professional help from companies like https://aurorabasements.com/ that are local.