Unforgettable chapters in family histories are made next to cozy fires every winter. One can only imagine the memories behind the Chimney Chronicles as the invention of chimneys emerged through the thickness of centuries of smoke. Grand chimneys and fireplaces are true spectacles. Who wouldn’t be charmed by such architecture, especially after seeing comically smudge-faced Dick Van Dyke in the movie Mary Poppins? But the story of what came before these venting systems is simply fascinating. Below, learn about the evolution of the chimney, which couldn’t have come soon enough.
Some families in ancient Rome were kept warm in winter in an innovative way. Interior flue pipes were laid within the walls and underneath the floors. Fires used in the bakeries provided the heat as the combustion gases traveled through the pipes. The smoke traversed to pipes outside the building, much like chimney pipes used today. This genius was hidden after the fall of the Roman Empire.
From the earliest of times, people used fire inside their homes for cooking and warmth. Yet they didn’t have an effective way to channel the toxic smoke to the outside. Sadly, the cunning used in Rome long remained a secret, and the fires of progress moved at a snail’s pace for centuries. The beginnings of what would become “the conventional chimney” did not appear until the 16th century when necessity became the mother of invention.
In England, coal began to be widely used for heating homes, creating a level of toxicity in the combustion byproducts that could not be ignored. Sophisticated ventilation was required, and some historians think this is where chimneys were born. Each fireplace utilized vast amounts of fuel. Keeping up with maintenance was practically a full-time job! Homes with multiple chimneys were not uncommon, and it was evidence of conspicuous consumption.
The earliest chimneys for wood-burning fireplaces were found to be woefully inadequate. People were still exposed to too much smoke, and chimneys were prone to cause destructive home fires. Benjamin Franklin famously invented the “Pennsylvanian Fire Place” in the 1740s, which improved efficiency. Then, four decades later, he published Observations on the Causes and Cure of Smoky Chimneys. Toward the end of that same century, Benjamin Thompson, aka Count Rumford, also addressed the problem of smoky chimneys.
It was the Rumford stove and chimney that eliminated both the smoke and heat that flooded kitchens during that period in history. That groundbreaking invention, along with the (Benjamin) Franklin stove, heavily influenced home design well into the Victorian era, which lasted from 1837 through 1901. The elimination of toxic smoke in the home having finally been achieved, this is where the fireplaces and chimneys themselves began to take center stage.
True ornately designed fireplace mantels were rare spectacles until the 18th century. Meanwhile, the serious preservation of the history of fireplaces was seemingly on no one’s radar. Fortunately, at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York, a Gothic Revival mansion provides us an opportunity to see eight fireplaces spanning the mid-to-late 19th century.
The certified chimney sweep professionals at A-1 Chimney Specialist have all the skills needed to ensure the smooth operation of fireplace and chimney systems. We provide annual chimney inspections, chimney cleaning, chimney cap installation, chimney masonry repair, chimney flue replacement, and all of the chimney services that may be needed. There is a lot more to the Chimney Chronicles, well beyond the invention of chimneys that emerged through the thickness of centuries of smoke. We are glad to be a part of the modern story, as we also fix smoky chimneys.