by Tom Seabrook
The fireplace is often the heart of the home, and there’s nothing quite like the ambiance of a crackling blaze. But have you ever wondered how fireplaces have changed over the years? Toss another log on the fire and keep reading to learn more about the warmest spot in the home.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEARTH IS
As late as the 19th century, many American homes used open hearth fireplaces for both heating and cooking. Much like our modern multifunction ovens, fireplaces could be used to cook a wide variety of foods—from stews simmered in large pots over the flames, to loaves of bread baked in separate brick niches. Everything tastes better flame grilled!
STOVE-R THE TOP
One early innovation that improved upon open hearths was the enclosed stove. Fires built inside warmed the iron or porcelain body of the stove, radiating ample heat. Stoves designed for cooking featured flat tops with space for kettles, pots, and pans—the precursor to the stovetop burners we have in the kitchen today.
OLD KING COAL
During the Industrial Revolution, many homes transitioned from burning wood to burning coal. Many older homes in cities like Richmond, VA,, still have small exterior doors for coal deliveries. With the modern move away from fossil fuels, you’re more likely to see coal at an old timey train show than to find it heating your drawing room.
Gas fireplaces are all the rage, and with good reason. You can enjoy the ambience of a real fire without the maintenance that a wood burning fireplace needs. Since the mid-20th century, gas fireplaces have grown in popularity as costs have dropped and the possibilities for design have expanded. Don’t like fake logs? Try rocks or glass marbles instead!
PASS THE ‘MALLOWS
Outdoor campfires have been used in every culture throughout history and continue to serve as a primary cooking tool in many parts of the world. The firepit has evolved from the rustic campfire to become the perfect focal point for your patio, deck, or backyard. Whether you’re grilling weenies or toasting up a chocolatey s’more, the firepit is a classic, timeless gathering place.
UP ON THE HOUSETOP
One of the most delightful characteristics of Santa Claus is his ability to fit down any chimney, despite his famous girth. We all know that if you leave a stocking hung carefully by the fire on December 24th, jolly old St. Nick will fill it up with goodies. Celebrate Christmas but don’t have a fireplace? Don’t worry! You can hang your stockings anywhere…Santa will know!