So, for the few who may have been following my gas insert removal / wood in chimney / new stove in old fireplace saga... the brick is out! Before: After: Not sure what those wooden boxes are hiding behind the mantel high on either side, but one historian suggested they were for hiding keepsakes. I had an aunt who lived in a farmhouse in my family since 1692 (yes... 1692) once tell me they were for storing your overalls overnight, so they'd be toasty in the morning. I suspect they were more for food prep than either of the other two reasons, but who knows? Next decision... what to do about the floor: If I do a raised hearth extension, the floor can stay. If I can fid a way to do a flush hearth extension, I'll pull that brick, and get down to the original stone hearth, which is likely flush with my wood floor.