THE MASONRY MONTHLY
2005 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103 | 626-296-7700 | www.bostonbrick.com | September 2018
THE STORIED HISTORY OF THE CHIMNEY
E ver since humans discovered the power of fire, we’ve needed ways to contain it. This need led to the advent of the hearth — a place where people could safely keep a fire burning in homes and communities. It was the ancient Greeks who first developed a way to centrally heat a home. The Romans then took this technology and advanced it with the development of the hypocaust — a space beneath the floor where hot air could be circulated and pushed from one area of a building to another. Historians discovered that the development of the chimney occurred sometime in the 11th century, when many structures in northern Europe started to include a chimneys. Through archaeological studies, historians saw the construction of chimneys change from cumbersome and inefficient stone structures to more efficient and compact structures, thanks to advancements in brick. In 1742, there was a major leap forward with the invention of the Franklin Stove, a creation of Benjamin Franklin. He tasked himself with developing a fireplace that was more fuel- and heat-efficient. In the end, his stove was able to output twice the heat while using a third less wood over other types of stoves.
Unfortunately, the Franklin stove wasn’t popular. It didn’t offer a very good draft, and the temperature had to be consistently high in order to operate properly. This required a lot of work on the part of the homeowner. As a result, very few were sold. However, many other inventors improved upon the Franklin stove model. One inventor, David Rittenhouse, helped make the most improvements to the stove, including the L-shaped chimney. It was only after these improvements had been developed that people started buying the stove. In the late 1700s, Count Rumford (also known as Sir Benjamin Thompson, an American-born, British loyalist inventor), spent a significant part of his career studying heat. This led to him advancing the fireplace as it existed in the 1700s. One of Count Rumford’s improvements was placing the sides of the firebox at a sharper angle in order to reflect more heat into the room. This alteration and many others were adopted by home builders across Europe, eventually becoming a standard of the time. In the 1950s, Robert K. Thulman invented and patented the triple-wall chimney system. This was a pipe made of thin metal that was easy to manufacture, making fireplaces much more economical. It was also around this time that central heating furnaces were becoming popular, which meant that people no longer needed fireplaces to heat their homes. Instead, the modern fireplace became more of a decoration. Though heating the home is no longer the primary purpose of a fireplace, who can deny the warm comfort of a flickering fire? Plus, with so many material types available — from stone and tile to brick and hardwood — homeowners can create a fireplace that captures their sense of style. The options are truly extraordinary. As an added benefit, we now have the technology and capability to repair and restore the fireplaces of years past. Why lose a piece of history when we can restore it to its former glory? That’s what we do at Boston Brick & Stone. The fireplace and the chimney have come a long way, and we’re here to see them through to the next generation!
A Franklin stove
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