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