@ThisOldHouse July 25

Coach4aday blog posts are written by John Rancke and I. We write daily about leadership, food, people, music, our granddaughters, Lumberton NC, and things that pique our curiosity.

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Coal Burning Fireplace

It is the middle of the summer so it is a kind of a odd topic but I wanted to learn about Coal Burning Fireplaces as my post for today.

The reason our house was built in 1910 and the best I can tell it had at one time no less than 10 fireplaces and one stove that all worked on coal.

Black and White Photo of our Lumberton NC home circa 1911


Today we are down to six fireplaces with two of six having been converted to gas burning coal insert. Thanks to our neighbors Bonnie and Kenny Biggs we learned how they converted a similar fireplace with a vendor out of Charlotte NC.

Bonnie and Kenny

bonnie and kenny

The other four are currently sealed up with a cast iron cover maybe one day we will get to those four.

Each fireplace in our home is unique in its design as it related to the cover and the artwork on the cast iron mantle.

By the mid-1800s, as the country industrialized and became more urban, households were burning coal rather than wood. Grates were smaller and held lumps of coal in iron baskets. Surrounds got a makeover, too: The new style was cast iron in a horseshoe-arch shape, embellished by the many decorative flourishes of the Rococo Revival style, which were easily captured by the casting process.

As the Victorian age progressed, fireplaces became more ornate, with overmantels and columns.

Here is an example of an overmantel. The ones in my home are not quite as eloborate.


One of my six home mantles is shown below

mantle elm

Here is what a gas coal basket insert looks like. If you look close on bottom right you can see gas line feeding the basket.

insert firpelace.jpg

In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s there became a backlash on coal as heating source for homes.  As we all know, coal is no longer an environmentally good choice when it comes to heating your home, and fireplaces are no longer used as the sole heating source either.

The big problem with this movement was that most coal burning fireplaces and their attached chimney could not support the act of burning wood. So a homeowner of an old home with coal burners was left no choice but to cover up the opening with a fireplace cover, and covert to some other type of heating source.

We got tired of looking at some aspects of our historic fireplaces with the lovely tile surround and wanted a few rooms to become functional.

The ventless gas burners were made to look like the original coal burner that came with our home some 108 years ago.

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