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Name that Fireplace!

04/05/2013 6:19 PM

OK folks, I recently purchased a house with a fireplace in the back yard.

I has a little brick pad in the front and looks like it was made for entertaining.

However, there are a few things that have me wondering. See below:

There is a concrete "chain wall" around the whole thing with a gap for a "front door."

(dog not related to topic)

There is a ledge about seven feet up, above which there is an indication the bricks were laid against a structure suspiciously shaped like a gable.

The main house was built in 1930. Earliest structures in the area were post Civil War logging camps. The area gets about 60 inches of annual rainfall, so the idea of this having at one time been a house seemed laughable, but I'm having my doubts now. This town was raised about two feet back in the '30s, maybe this little structure used to be on a hill.

Now I present it to you gurus and goofballs to figure out.

Please let me know what you think.

-A-

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#1

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/05/2013 7:02 PM

My guess is that this fireplace used to form the central core of a small house. I base that on the finish bricks and smooth grouting on the lower courses and the overflowing mortar on the upper courses that might have been covered by an interior wall or just open in the attic/loft above.

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#2

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/05/2013 7:05 PM

Two things come to my mind.

Its part of an old building. Possibly servant quarters or similar which mean that there was more floor space in the building than what the remaining ground level brick work suggests and what you see now could have just been the kitchen area and the rest of the building was on wood foundations which has long since been removed.

The other option is your place had an outdoor kitchen for summer use and the remaining brick floor was all that there was to the structure.

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#3

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/05/2013 7:18 PM

The brick above the ledge was not finished. I would guess it was either for an exterior boiler or kitchen. The fireplace itself looks like it could have held racks for baking but because of the lip dropping down to the floor level I doubt it was for cooking pots. I don't see anywhere a separate stove pipe would fit into the existing chimeny (but it could have gone through the roof.

Still, it seems small to be a kitchen. Could it have been a crematorium? The size is what throws me...poke around and see if you can discover if perhaps the concrete curtain is not the perimeter of the original structure.

Right now I am going to bet on it being a furnace of some sort, heating, cremating or such.

Drew K

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#4

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/05/2013 8:47 PM

They used to build "Summer kitchens" in colonial times. In the ones I've seen, they still did food prep in the regular kitchen but used an outside oven. The illustrations I find on the web are for full kitchens but the ones I've seen around here were fairly open, after all, the idea was to avoid the heat.

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#5

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/05/2013 9:54 PM

looks like union work to me

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#6

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 12:06 AM

Looks like a small colonial kitchen, or what's left of one.....

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#10
In reply to #6

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 3:38 AM

The brick patio does not look original, but looks to be recently added.....

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#11
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 5:19 AM

I'd say they match in quite well with the fireplace, I'd say they were broadly contemporary.
The workmanship is too good to be modern ;) and wouldn't a modern one use paving blocks rather than brick?
Dunno why I'm arguing discussing this in a grown up manner.
I don't actually care...
Del (scampers off to put kettle on)

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#13
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 8:59 AM

Well the bricks are in too good of condition to have been used as a floor for 100+ years....Now they may be reclaimed from a brick structure of the period, that would be a strong possibility...

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#18
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/07/2013 12:57 AM

One of the things that is a common theme is older fireplaces that get reused as barbecues (usually because an older structure had burned down) and people scavenge used brick from demolition sited for patios. I lived in a Historic District in Jersey City and for several years was chairman of the H D Commission, where this was quite common, and of course the brick matched most of the surviving houses because the bricks were all made by a small number of brickyards. Without investigating for foundations, the surrounding brick work doesn't help much. To me, this looks like the fireplace form a fairly large (early) kitchen from a pretty large house. It might help to check with the local planning board to see if there is any surviving evidence of an earlier structure. During the Depression (the 1929 one not the current one) the WPA sent photographers over much of the country documenting building stocks.

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#7

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 12:07 AM

That's a massive fireplace for the size of the room, so it is for much more than heating. Any pictures of the hearth area itself and of the ground in front? Any evidence of anything, drains, bases etc in the brick floor?

Might be interesting to dig a little trench in front of where the gap for the door is. Any threshold, any path?

I think you should name the fireplace Brian, or Susan if it is a girl

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#8

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 1:37 AM

The remnants of America's first pizzeria!

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#9

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 2:57 AM

If it were on my land I'd have it rebuilt as a workshop (with forge?) before you you could say 'Abraham Lincoln'
Del

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#12

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 7:59 AM

Could have been the servant's quarters. A maid or husband-wife butler-maid combination could have lived there.

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#14

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 1:37 PM

Well, it's definitely not deep enough for a crematorium, unless it was for small pets.

So far I'm going with the outdoor kitchen idea. Would this have been pre-electricity? Our area had an electric power plant in the 1890's. That would also be about the time the town was raised. (not in the 1930's as previously stated)

It is fairly large and I'm thinking it was probably for a middle income size home. Around the turn of the century this area was pretty flush with cash. When electricity came in, I'm guessing a home this size would probably have it installed.

So, when did people move their kitchens indoors? What is the likelihood of this kitchen being pre-1890's?

-A-

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#15
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 3:04 PM

After more thought I disregarded the crematorium, the stack isn't tall enough. What gets me is the shape of the fireplace itself and the size of the concrete area.

What about an incenerator? Again the stack isn't tall enough unless it were burning medical waste. Could the house have been a clinic or something?

The kitchen idea has a lot of merit but it just looks too small and cramped to be swinging around pots and pastries. I do recall reading about kitchens being kept outside because they liked to burn the house down if things got out of hand.

More pictures? If you were in England I would hit the local archives (like Time Team!). You might find something in the courthouse, or old library or even churches?

Drew K

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#16

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 3:53 PM

I'm surprised to see the floor below grade in this colonial kitchen. I would excavate to find a flagstone walk leading to the original house kitchen. The area could have been built up from other excavations, like foundation digging for a new house.

Strange to see concrete, I didn't think it was contemporary to colonial construction. The gable does outline a roof that would intercept walls. I expect colonial kitchens had roofs to protect from rain, but fairly open walls to let heat escape.

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#17

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/06/2013 11:02 PM

Dear gentlemen I would have to agree with RAMConsult this structure looks exactly like the remains of my mothers family home in the hills of Tennessee.It was built in the late 1800-early 1900 one room for 11 children and two adults. right down to the brick floor with a concrete foundation just like this one to hold the brick floor in place. It was hard times for everyone in those times they used what they could get and logs were cheap and had to be removed to put up the cabin in the first place. (Fly or pot)? -ash, limestone, and aggregate was everywhere since people used wood to heat with. So cement was easy for them to make and used bricks were available every time a house was accidental burnt to the ground due to candle usage and kerosene lamps for lighting if you could afford them. Duke

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#19

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/07/2013 7:18 AM

I agree that most likely it was a "summer kitchen" building. The concrete wall foundation, I would think, would make it late 1800's at the earliest. They were very common in the east, as someone had noted, dating back into the colonial times. Most often they were an accessory structure to a home, but ccassionally they were a part of a commercial or institutional venture where food was prepped for sale or patient/staff. The most recently built one I've seen in New England was built in 1903 as part of a small community hospital facility. Neat use of the remains of this piece of history!

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#20

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/07/2013 3:49 PM

Drew K has a good idea. Local library, archivists, local history society, local university's history department. Who has old maps of the area? Old property records, land transaction registers? Amazing what you can find.

Evan

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#21

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/07/2013 5:24 PM

Many houses in early times australia would have the kitchen separated from the main house, since most fires started in the kitchens. The opening in the base of the chimney looks suitable for an installed wood stove.

The kitchens were connected to the main house by a covered walkway that was intentionally flimsy in nature and could be easily removed if the kitchen did catch fire.

The rest of the structure was usually made of inferior materials (since they were prepared for them to burn down) that typically did not survive many decades after modern cooking facilities became available.

Look in the middle of the paved area for evidence of wear from a large table (4 legs would have marked the bricks) and evidence of cupboard legs 18" inside from the edges.

I believe that you've got a separate kitchen from an old house where the foundations would be approximatley 20 feet away from the edge opposite the fireplace.

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#22

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/09/2013 4:51 PM

I'm wondering if it can be the remains of an old "smoke house" used to preserve meat, smoke hams (boars), make bacon.




v

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#23
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/10/2013 2:44 AM

Oooooh smoked ham.... (drools on the keyboard).
Del

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#24
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/10/2013 12:20 PM

I think that picture is of a cabin. I would think a smokehouse would have a different chimney setup, since the smoke is supposed to go through the smokehouse before it exits the roof.

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#25
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/10/2013 12:21 PM

What about a small tobacco drying shed? Did they use heat or just drying racks?

Drew K

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#27
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/10/2013 5:27 PM

Tobacco drying sheds (there are still some in highland areas in Australia) were typically very high walled with the whole building being effectively the chimney to create draft. None that I've seen (of around 200) ever had a fireplace in them, though in America the winters are distinctly more severe and tehre may have been different construction.

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#28
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/11/2013 10:00 AM

I grew up in Connecticut. Back then Ct. was famous for growing tobacco for cigars, the outer leaf wrappers especially. The drying sheds could be seen from the highways and none had any heat or chimneys. Rather they all had vertical vents that could be opened when sunny and warm and closed for rain. The Connecticut River Valley was full of them.

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#26
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/10/2013 1:08 PM

I Googled smokehouse and they had an Images site that I took that off of. Many of the pictures were not how I would build a smokehouse since I wouldn't want to have to run inside a smoke filled room to replenish the wood but that was not untypical of the many images.I was looking at the size and configuration and layout of what they showed and the OP showed rather than the engineering that went into the construction. Google "smokehouse" and see the variations.

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#29

Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/11/2013 5:34 PM

Deja Vu!!!!

Was watching Forest Gump last night and saw your outdoor chimney with associated paved area in the background at his home (In the last 30 minutes of the movie.)

There they had some garden furniture set on it. (Metal table and two chairs.)

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#30
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Re: Name that Fireplace!

04/12/2013 8:56 AM

I'll pick up the dvd on the way home. Thanks!

(I think I may still have it on vhs or betamax)

-A-

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