From Ancient to Modern Fireplaces: What You Need to Know

The fireplace was a must in early America. As the center of the house, it provided heat, housed numerous fires for cooking and baking, and served as the core of family gatherings. In the 1600s and early 1700s, the typical fireplace was a walk-in: a broad, deep, open break, generally with only the shortest view of a robe, or no cloak at all. Usually, the firebox was wider than it was long, especially in the homes of Dutch colonizers.

Fireplaces in English homes were smaller and more efficient. In New England and the Mid-Atlantic, colonial houses had central chimneys with numerous grooves, so that fires could be lit in two or more rooms on each floor. The central stone or brick mass also tended to keep the heat, keeping the house warmer in general. In the South, fire hearths were placed on the far reaches of the house to reduce the amount of heat, keeping the house cooler in summer.

In the early 19th century, around 1795, Mr. Benjamin Thompson, named Count Rumford, began fiddling with the firebox project. The result of his efforts is the basis for all open fire hearths today. Taller than it is wide and smaller and shallower than old styles, the Rumford fire hearth has sharp angles on both sides. The clever design throws more radiant heat into a room than its predecessors. Another key element is its narrow throat, which depletes both smoke and air at a higher speed, acting as a control against backdrafts.

The Georgian Era ( 1714-1837)

The fireplaces from this period were of large size and were usually designed a full focal point of the room. This view was achieved using cast iron grates and large fire baskets to create large openings for the chimney. These were accompanied by uncomplicatedly designed hardwood circles and marble chimneys. 

The Victorian Era (1837-1901)

This period is divided into the early and mid-Victorian fireplaces and the late Victorian fireplaces. Early and mid-Victorian chimneys are usually very decorated with uncomplicated designs focusing somewhat on a more floreal model in casting. This design has proven to become very popular in the fireplaces of modern-day reproduction, while they take their inspiration from these original antique chimney designs.

Art Nouveau (1880-1914)

This era in the history of design is such an important step and by many people, it is classified as the bridge between the historicalism of neo-classicalism and modernism. 

Our ancient cast iron fireplaces and ancient fire circles are a tribute to this era in time. We have professionally restored them to such a standard as to compliment this revolutionary movement in the history of design, and we take great pride in showing the work of these great designers in its truest form.

The Edwardian Era (1900-1920)

During the Edwardian era, another style became known as art and style crafts, which was mainly focused on using local materials for the fireplace and bringing them home.  The theme for art and art style was always natural and materials were locally sourced, where possible. A range of materials were used during this period, including mainly cast iron, bricks, and tiles, and in some of the higher-market houses, made to measure beaten copper hearths were a popular design.

While the overall shape of the modern fireplace has not changed much over time, the dimensions, uses and design options for today’s fireplaces are more diverse and creative than ever imagined. In the end, though, a couple of things remain constant. The unmistakable ability of a fireplace to provide warmth, comfort, and relaxation to those of us who love to sit in front of a crackling, enchanting fire and relax.