Wood-Burning Stoves and Fireplaces

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By Arkansas Girl | Nov 21, 2013

Even though I’m more than a half century away from the reality of “making a fire” in a stove or fireplace, the memories are still quite warm and fresh. When I was 13, we moved to a house with a fireplace, and one of the houses where my maternal grandparents lived had a fireplace. If there’s one thing I loved (back then), it was sitting in front of an open fire inside a house. It seemed as though it wasn’t real nor possible, but the reality was right in front of your eyes. The flickering flames and warmth from the heat are both inviting and romantic – not that I really knew anything about romance then, but still I felt as though I were embraced snugly within two loving arms whenever I sat before an open fireplace.

Anyway, houses were built with a “flue” or chimney between two walls (back-to-back to each other). For instance, in our house, there was a stove in the front room and a stove in (room directly behind it) the kitchen. Each other was right up against each other with the wall separating them. So, if you measured the distance from the door to one stove, then, you could go on the other side of the wall and measure that same distance and that would be the position of the stove in the other room.

I was always intrigued as to how a house was built that had this small, narrow brick-like passage that went up through the roof and emitted smoke to the outside. I always wanted to look up the flute, but with the stove pipe always attached to it, there was no way to see up it. I wondered if I could see the sky if I could get my head under the chimney arch, but I never had the opportunity, so to this day, I’m still curious as to what it looks like up there.

How to start a fire is material for another blog, but for now, from what I remember, my dad always got up first and started the fires so when we got up, the front room was nice and cozy. If we were gone all day, I didn’t like coming home to a cold house, because the fire had to be started, and it takes a while for the fire to really get going. The waiting time before you get warm is not too comfortable, but once the room gets warm, then you forget about how cold you were.

Now, a good many homes used wood-burning stoves. Gas was available, but most families couldn’t afford it as it was a luxury. Even when we moved to our second house, although we had a gas stove, we still burned wood in the front room … and by the way, we had a fireplace – my favorite heating method. The only problem with a fireplace, especially if the house is somewhat “drafty” is that this method doesn’t heat as well as a stove. You’re usually only warm on the side that’s facing the fire. When that side gets warm, you have to turn around to warm the other side, but still a controlled fire inside a house is intriguing, to say the least.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a fire started to warm a house, but the idea is a precious memory. Where I live, heat bubbles, crackles and gurgles through the pipes leading to the steam radiator that heats my place, but I think a fireplace is still the most charming way to heat a house. The beauty of an indoor fire is so classy, so cozy and is as inviting as the flames are warm. It is my dream to one day live in a house with a real wood-burning fireplace … two for good measure.

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