Friday, December 19, 2014

5 Fun Fireplace (and Chimney) Facts to Wow your Friends

By Gretchen Sawatzki 

In 1823, Clement Clarke Moore penned the famous poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas ('Twas the Night Before Christmas) that forever linked this time of year with a husky bearded man and chimneys. With the holiday season in full swing here's a few facts about American fireplaces and chimneys you can share with Santa and your friends.

1). Benjamin Franklin - Founding Father, scientist, and the "universal smoke doctor"

Digital book from the Collection of the University of Michigan.

In 1768 Franklin studied the effects of chimneys and smoke in building interiors conducting several experiments upon the request of Lord Kames of Edinburgh publishing his findings in an essay, "Observations on the Causes and Cure of Smoky Chimneys: With Considerations on Fuel and Stoves".

2).  The Rumford fireplace did wonders for curb-appeal

Chimney on the exterior of a home at Colonial Williamsburg
before the creation of the Rumford fireplace. Image courtesy

Before 1796, chimneys were located on the exterior of American homes. With the invention of the Rumford fireplace, by Sir Benjamin Thompson a.k.a. Count Rumford, chimneys could be safely enclosed within the interior walls of the home. With a shallow firebox and narrow flew, the design reduced air pollutants, streamlined heating with energy efficiency, and streamlined our houses' curb appeal!

3). American Presidents and poets loved the Rumford

Rumford at Monticello courtesy of 

Thomas Jefferson appreciated the energy-efficient design of the Rumford fireplace so much that he installed one at Monticello...

...and Henry David Thoreau stated, "comforts of civilized society" necessitated the Rumford fireplace.

4). Wood chimneys?

Drawing of a pair of chimneys with a wood leanto in between
at the Alexander Craig house in Colonial Williamsburg
dates to the early 1700s. Image courtesy of 

Early American chimneys were made of wood-lined clay, a technology that originated in England. In 1789, President George Washington noticed the dangers of wood and clay chimneys and spearheaded a program to appoint fire wardens in American cities to regularly inspect chimneys.

5). Chimneys above the roofline, a royal leftover

Chimney extending above the roofline
of a Tudor Revival style home in
Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Image courtesy

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, English courts began demanding that chimneys be made from brick and mortar and extend at least four and half feet above a building's roofline - a practice still used in American home construction today.


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