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Bricked up fireplace, but fireplace is missing

Questions, answers and advice for people who own or work on houses built during the 20th century.

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Bricked up fireplace, but fireplace is missing

Postby nmspeer » Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:29 pm

I'm a first time poster who has recently acquired a 1910 four square and I have a fireplace mystery I'm hoping someone can help me solve. There is a fireplace in the livingroom and on the wall behind it the plaster was uneven and bulging out about at the height where a fireplace would be. We were told that the chimney has three flues-- one for the fireplace in the livingroom, one that was used in the kitchen and (we suspected) one that was used for a fireplace in the entryway.

So today we did some demo and discovered brick behind the plaster. This was exciting but as we removed the plaster out to the edges, no fireplace appeared. The entire opening is just filled with the same sort of bricks. We haven't removed the bricks yet but by digging out some of the mortar we can tell that it is just a single course of bricks blocking up the opening. There is also no evidence of a hearth (no patching in the wood floor where one would have been).

My questions: Was this really a fireplace or is there something else that could explain a fireplace-shaped/sized opening to a chimney in an entryway? If there was a fireplace there originally, what might prompt someone to remove it entirely instead of just bricking it up? (We would consider rebuilding it but I'd like to figure out whether this is a symptom of some odd situation we should be aware of first.)

Thanks!
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Re: Bricked up fireplace, but fireplace is missing

Postby Alexander » Sun Apr 01, 2012 10:13 pm

Nmspeer,

Could it be that it is just the back of the living room fireplace? I would think that one flu would be for the kitchen, one for the furnace and one for the living room fireplace. Does the house have or did it have radiators? My 1911 house has a double flu that was for the coal furnace and the cook stove. There was a second chimney that was for a fireplace in the dining room that was taken out in the 1930's.

The only other thing I can think is a stove but usually not in a foyer. Sometimes plaster bulges around a chimney when water leaks down from the roof penetration, or the living room fireplace warmed the bricks and the plaster left lose.

I am sure experts here will have a better answer then mine.

Alexander
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Re: Bricked up fireplace, but fireplace is missing

Postby nmspeer » Sun Apr 01, 2012 10:57 pm

Hi--

Thanks for the reply!

It's definitely not the back of the fireplace from the livingroom. The wall in the livingroom where the fireplace is and the wall in the entryway are not parallel to one another. Both are at an angle, relative to the other walls in the rooms so there is a lot of space between them. The entire chimney structure has a triangular footprint (as seen in the basement) with (in theory) each opening to the chimney being on one side of that triangular structure (the kitchen being on the third side of the triangle).

There is no evidence of radiators (none in the house now and no signs that pipes were removed at any point-- no holes/patches in the floors). Although I suppose that the floor registers for the current forced hot air system could be where radiator pipes came into the rooms at some point.

The bulging plaster wasn't loose-- it was just an uneven, thick layer over the somewhat uneven wood that is where the top of the fireplace would be and it didn't show any signs of any sort of damage.

I wonder if someone would have moved the fireplace from the entryway to the livingroom? That seems like an absurd amount of trouble to go to and it also seems unlikely that there would have originally been a fireplace in the entryway and not in the livingroom but at least that would explain where all the fireplace parts went (although how you get the bricks out without doing a lot of damage to them is beyond me-- and the livingroom fireplace bricks are in excellent shape).
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Re: Bricked up fireplace, but fireplace is missing

Postby Alexander » Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:26 am

Interesting,

I would think one chimney would be for the furnace, one for the kitchen stove and one for a fireplace. My brothers house from 1914 has the fireplace in the foyer but with not evidence of a hearth I would think it is just the side of the chimney. Does the footprint show that one side was in the kitchen and one flue was used for a furnace? I guess the big question is how was the house heated when built. If there was a furnace then it just must be the side of the chimney. I am having a hard time visualizing the floor plan.

Alexander.
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Re: Bricked up fireplace, but fireplace is missing

Postby eclecticcottage » Tue Apr 03, 2012 11:21 am

It's a little hard to picture...but...could it have been a faux fireplace (so need for a hearth)? Do you have a separate chimney for the furnace/boiler? Otherwise it makes sense that would have used the third flue. You could have them checked and scoped to see where they lead.
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Current home: 1950's Summer Cottage turned year round home (the Cottage)
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