The Mystery Flue.

One of the most striking things about our new (olde) house is its original heating system.  Not oil, not gas, but CHIMNEYS!  Downstairs in the basement you can see the bottom arches of these massive brick structures, rising from the ground like roman aqueducts.  Impressive in scale and beautiful in form and function.  This Book speaks at length about colonial chimneys and is a great read for anyone interested in the subject.

chimney base

Our house has two of these giant chimneys, and every room in the house (excluding baths, but including the attic) has a fireplace.  The largest of these fireplaces is a hearth in the family room, in which five people can stand at the same time.  Both that fireplace and the one in the keeping room have hanging irons for cooking, and both have adjacent baking ovens.  Which unfortunately no longer work.. but a girl can’t have everything.

When we bought this house, a top priority was getting these fireplaces working again.  And in the past two months, we’ve lavished more attention on them than anything else.  First, my superhusband had to install a hatch in the roof, in order to gain access to the immense chimneys and get them uncapped.  No small feat!  Working three stories up, alone.  He not only did all the work himself, but he did it w/ aplomb.  My hero.

up on the roof - hatch installation

working hard - john installs hatch

Next, we (meaning JOHN) had to uncap the chimneys.  Again, no small feat.  Since the caps were custom built wooden structures, layers thick, literally screwed into the masonry.  Did I mention they were also massive and unbelievably heavy?  Yup.  John (the bravest man I know) not only deconstructed them – but he did so standing on the edge/s of our roof, ALONE.  While I watched from the hatch, snapping photos.  Just to give you a idea of scale – this is the larger of the two chimneys.

big chimney

When John uncapped the larger chimney above, he discovered a heretofore unknown TENTH FLUE.  We thought we only had nine fireplaces, b/c that’s how many you can see.  But apparently there is a mysterious tenth fireplace lurking somewhere in this house.  Hidden beneath a wall?  It was anyone’s guess – until yesterday.  When we spent the better part of an hour in quest.  John went up on the roof, and dropped a large bell into each flue, which he would shake loudly.  The girls & I ran from floor to floor screaming up IT’S THE LIVING ROOM!  IT’S IN GEORGIA’S ROOM.  And so on.  Until we determined the location of the tenth flue.  John suspected it was on the first floor.  I believed it was a 2nd fireplace in the attic.  WHO WAS RIGHT??  JOHN- of course!  Although it wasn’t a fireplace, per se.  The 10th flue actually goes to the brick beehive oven in the living room – which is sealed at present.  But it sure was great getting to the bottom of that mystery.

beehive oven

TOMORROW: pt. 2. The Tale of Two Chimneys.

9 thoughts on “The Mystery Flue.

  1. That is just so awesome!! I love historic homes and yours is just beautiful! The brick arch in the basement is so brilliant! I’m not sure I’d like to heat with wood or clean the fireplaces but I certainly think they are lovely to look at!

  2. We girls never knew there was an extra flue. I always figured that the dutch oven flue simply fed into the fireplace flue. How interesting. If there were an extra flue to the other chimney, I would have thought it must come up from the furnace. Is there another exhaust for the furnace, a seperate chimney pipe coming through the roof? I can’t remember. I love seeing your photos showing how you’ve arranged furniture in the house, and what you are finding as you bring the house alive. Curtains are very important to hold the heat in; and the cold, out, even when storm windows are on. Kate

  3. You have a brick beehive oven??? Just like in the Conner house in Fisher, IN that we visited on our vacation, and I was really taken with the beehive oven. But it had a brick place outside that looked like a little igloo against the house. Do you? Those big arches in the basement are fascinating. Did any of us mention that you have a really great house? Kudos to your husband for going on the roof to do that stuff, even tho he is insane.

  4. Wait…are you telling me the only heating system your stunning new house has is a network of fireplaces?!?!?!? And you live in MAINE!!?!?!??? I’m sending your children Snuggies.

    PS. Your husband is clearly a lunatic. Why is he not wearing a harness of some type? Or, better yet, calling THE PEOPLE to do all that manual labor? When does he have the time? And HOW did he learn? And does he have an available brother???

  5. Dearest Dishy,
    I fear you may end up with LOTS of company…bouncy sounds like she is about ready to set up housekeeping…as soon as you get the bulk of the work done and it is WARM, the rest of us will visit
    Love, Connie

    I am so waiting for some “If Walls Could Talk” episodes from you….I know you will find more exciting stuff!

  6. Thanks S. LE ! – we are smitten too. PS: My younger daughter is FASCINATED by ash. I have no idea why. But she scoops it out of our outdoor chiminea and makes all sorts of weird slurry concoctions, w/ sticks and leaves. I am fine w/ it until she gets a little too enthused and begins flinging it on the porch furniture. I spent a bit of time this weekend scraping crap off a wooden bench – gross..

    Hi Kate!! Hope all’s well. Yes – there is a flue for the furnace. It was built up inside the keeping room flue – not sure if a person had to actually squeeze in there to build it or not. If so, YIKES! That smaller chimney has 5 flues now (including new one for furnace). I agree – curtains do help w/ heating & cooling. Hopefully once we get the woodstove cranking we won’t need to worry about that!

    Dear Stephanie, House says — OH my! Cannot repeat that. You’ll have to text each other.

    Oh Curls, we also have a very efficient oil furnace w/ baseboard radiators, but we’re hoping to use wood as much as anything. Don’t worry about the snuggies. Mads already has one – and Georgia got me one for my bday. Love those snuggies. Love the word snuggie. Snuggie. PS: John claims he is equal parts brave & stupid. He does the work after work & on weekends. He is self taught. As he says – he is a student of life, sorry both brothers are taken.

    Thanks Hayden – I find this house absolutely fascinating too. It’s an amazing place to live.

    Connie, the house is looking forward to all the visitors (particularly BB) – we are too!


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