As families gather for the holidays, fireplaces around the world will be lit with the warm crackle of log fires.  Fireplaces have been a meeting place for families since early humans created fire.  As technology and styles have changed, the fireplace has evolved from a smoky cooking tool to an elegant decorative element in many homes.

Ancient fire pits were sometimes built in the ground in the center of a hut or dwelling. Smoke escaped through holes in the roof. Smoke would be blown outside or back into the room. Chimneys, invented much later, partially fixed this problem, venting smoke outside.

The 18th century saw two important developments in the history of fireplaces. Ben Franklin developed a convection chamber for fireplaces that greatly improved their efficiency. He also improved the airflow by pulling air from the basement and venting out a longer area at the top.  In the later 18th century, Count Rumford designed a fireplace with a tall, shallow firebox that was better at drawing the smoke up and out of the building. The shallow design also improved greatly the amount of radiant heat projected into the room. Rumford’s design is the foundation for modern fireplaces.

By the 1800’s there was a basic placement and form of the fireplace. The Victorian era viewed fireplaces as adding a cozy, quaint environment to homes. A beautiful fireplace added a touch of class to the home.  The Art Deco movement in the early 20th century focused on function over form. It emphasized modern aesthetic values and fireplaces built during this period reflected this trend.  The end of World War II created a dramatic need for more housing that led to the development of prefabricated electric and wood-burning fireplaces.  The fireplace became more of a decorative statement in the home instead of a heat source.  But even with all the changes in fireplace design, the original purposes of the fireplace remains – providing heat and a gathering place in the home.


Happy Holidays from the team at Roberts Residential Remodeling.