Fireplace or so I thought- thoroughly confused?

ndgregor Posted By ndgregor, Mar 28, 2019 at 9:24 AM

  1. ndgregor

    ndgregor
    New Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Feb 28, 2019
    10
    2
    Loc:
    PA, USA
    Hello,

    I posted on here previously about a covered fireplace in my circa 1850 farm house. Now that I am moved in, I am investigating further and am quite confused.

    The first two pictures show the basement, where there is a hole roughly 5” in diameter running into the chimney. I thought maybe this was an ash dump but I don’t think it is. There also appears to be a concrete pad on the floor. On the side view you can see the chimney starts to curve outward slightly.

    The next picture is taken by sticking my hand into the hole and directing it upwards in the chimney. Now the firebox should be directly above me by only about a foot or two at the most. However, the chimney looks like it just runs straight up. I don’t understand where the firebox would be for the fireplace?

    I am beginning to wonder if someone just put a decorative mantle up, and there is no fireplace at all. Seems kind of odd to me, but people do weird things all the time. However my next question is what would this chimney have been built for in the first place? Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions?

    Thanks,
    Nick
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Ludlow

    Ludlow
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Jun 4, 2018
    1,026
    268
    Loc:
    PA
    Was a coal furnace venting into it. How wide is it at the top?
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  3. ndgregor

    ndgregor
    New Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Feb 28, 2019
    10
    2
    Loc:
    PA, USA
    I haven’t been on the roof yet. Here is a picture from the exterior.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Ludlow

    Ludlow
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Jun 4, 2018
    1,026
    268
    Loc:
    PA
    Im thinking that maybe way back in the day, the owner got tired of freezing to death and knocked the floor of the firebox out, closed off the opening, poured a concrete pad in the basement, installed a coal furnace and vented it into the chimney. Doesnt seem to be enough width in that up top to have had two separate flues.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  5. bholler

    bholler
    Chimney sweep 2.
    NULL
    
    Staff Member

    Jan 14, 2014
    17,954
    4,154
    Loc:
    central pa
    As i have said before that mantle definitely is not a mid 19th century mantle so it is very possible there was never a fireplace in that location. But at that point there also was really not much of any Central heating either so a crock in the basement doesn't make sense either. Really the only way to know for sure is to open things up. it
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  6. spudman99

    spudman99
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Jan 26, 2018
    114
    61
    Loc:
    Yardley, PA
    Yup, you gotta open it up to see. Remember that back in the days there were no building codes, and there were not that may tradesmen who had reference resources to see how things should/could be built. It was a lot of 'seat of the pants' construction; or do what I did last time cause it worked.

    In my 1900's former house there is a 2 story brick chimney encased on plaster. It stops on the first floor, there literally is nothing supporting it in the basement. Foundation is a rubble stone with sand mortar. I have no idea how the floors hold the weight, but they do and have for 120 years. One part I did open up and look at had a 4" clay feeder pipe, I assume the chimney was used for pot belly stoves as heat in the very early time period.

    Decorative mantles are not unusual, it could have been moved there from a different part of the house if the owner liked the feature when closing off or repurposing an existing chimney elsewhere in the dwelling.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  7. showrguy

    showrguy
    Feeling the Heat 2.
    NULL
    

    Aug 2, 2015
    360
    159
    Loc:
    Marysville, Pa.
    Is this house in Shippensburg ??
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  8. Ludlow

    Ludlow
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Jun 4, 2018
    1,026
    268
    Loc:
    PA
    You can see the coal soot streak running down from the hole in the wall. That and the pad tell me what was there. The fireplace isnt restorable for use IMO.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  9. bholler

    bholler
    Chimney sweep 2.
    NULL
    
    Staff Member

    Jan 14, 2014
    17,954
    4,154
    Loc:
    central pa
    If it was originally a fireplace I am pretty sure it could be made functional again. But from the pics I am not sure it ever was.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  10. ndgregor

    ndgregor
    New Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Feb 28, 2019
    10
    2
    Loc:
    PA, USA
    Thanks for all the feedback.

    I will be removing the mantle, so I will see what is behind and post. If the fireplace is not repairable I plan to just sheetrock over the area that the mantle currently resides. It is a waste of space for me as is. The goal is to do something with it if money permits. The fact that I can't see the firebox when looking up the chimney is very odd to me, and it looks like it would be huge money to get it back into service (need to be lined and have a firebox installed).

    The house is not in Shippensburg, near Allentown PA.

    It just seems odd to me that such a large chimney would have been constructed in 1850 to vent a coal fired furnace.
     
    showrguy likes this.
  11. begreen

    begreen
    Mooderator 2.
    NULL
    
    Staff Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    77,246
    12,538
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    I'm curious to see what you find behind the mantel. It's proximity to the door is an odd location for a fireplace or stove. Is the floor plan still the original 1850 layout?
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  12. ndgregor

    ndgregor
    New Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Feb 28, 2019
    10
    2
    Loc:
    PA, USA
    No, the home was remodeled at one point. I think that the wall was added to segment the two rooms more. There is no door, just that 2 foot wall on each side of the room to separate the living room from dining room.
     
  13. barnaclebob

    barnaclebob
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 29, 2017
    180
    70
    Loc:
    Puget Sound
    Maybe faux closed up fireplaces have started to become a design trend.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  14. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 3, 2006
    8,978
    2,216
    Loc:
    Next to nuke plant Berwick, PA.
    Def a coal furnace was in the basement. Back in the day that was the main source for heat in PA. PA coal is some of the best there is. Was cheap, and throws a shitton of heat. My money is that you find a wall behind that "fake" fireplace. Although it may be possible someone tied a wood stove into the flue where the fireplace is.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    Ludlow likes this.
  15. bholler

    bholler
    Chimney sweep 2.
    NULL
    
    Staff Member

    Jan 14, 2014
    17,954
    4,154
    Loc:
    central pa
    I am sure you are right that there was a coal furnace run through the chimney at one point. But we see tons of them from this time period that were run through an old fireplace sometimes 2. My only reason to doubt it was originally built for a furnace is that 1850 is pretty early for a central furnace. They were out there but pretty uncommon and extremely expensive.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  16. Ludlow

    Ludlow
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Jun 4, 2018
    1,026
    268
    Loc:
    PA
    Is there a hearth extension in the floor in front of that mantle? Look in the floor structure from the basement and see if it was removed and if the floor was framed in. Should be pretty appearent if there was.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  17. jetsam

    jetsam
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Dec 12, 2015
    4,104
    2,856
    Loc:
    Long Island, NY
    Some early coal furnaces were quite literally room-sized. I base this statement on a house that I used to live in, where they had decided that it was easier to move all the ductwork to the next room than to tear out the coal furnace- so they left it there for future generations to marvel at, and put a gas furnace in the next room over. Redoing the ductwork must have been no small undertaking in that large house. Thing was huge.

    Look at all the windows downstairs and you'll probably find one that used to be the coal chute.
     
    Ludlow likes this.
  18. Ludlow

    Ludlow
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Jun 4, 2018
    1,026
    268
    Loc:
    PA
    My Dad used to tell me stories of coming home from school and shoveling 3 ton of coal through the little basement window in my grandparents house into the little block room they referred to as the "coal cellar". I remember as a kid going down with my Pap and "banking" the fire. Good times.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  19. ShawnLiNY

    ShawnLiNY
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Dec 13, 2018
    196
    44
    Loc:
    Ny
    It’s possible the fire place area was an alcove for a small parlor coal stove
     
    Ludlow likes this.
  20. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 3, 2006
    8,978
    2,216
    Loc:
    Next to nuke plant Berwick, PA.
    Furnaces yes, coal stoves on the other hand, they were cheap & plentiful. Many in my extended family still use huge coal stoves in basement to heat the whole house. My family members have acquired some really huge industrial coal stoves over the years. Makes a BK King look like a mini marine stove. They will burn wood in them until it is really cold out, otherwise the coal heat will overpower the house.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...

Share This Page