Even though the birthday of the fireplace is unknown, they have been used for over thousands of years, beginning during the Stone Age as simple dug out holes. In earlier times, the fireplace was a necessity, serving as the hub and main heat source for the home and was relied on for cooking and baking. Now in the 21st century, fireplaces still serve as a source of heat and continue to bring families together yet have transitioned into more of a luxury in modern day homes.
During the Medieval period, fire pits were built inside located in the middle of the room. The smoke escaped through a hole cut in the ceiling above.
Beginning in the 11th century two story buildings were more common. With this shift in design, homeowners moved the fireplace to the outside wall. This led to the invention of the modern chimney.
In the 1600’s and early 1700’s a typical fireplace was wide and deep with an open recess. These walk-in fireplaces were normally designed without a mantel.
In the 1740’s the Franklin Stove was created by Benjamin Franklin. This cast iron design produced more heat and was positioned back in the center of the room.
After the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, the fireplace transformed into the centerpiece of the home, constructed as a full-relief with mantels and surrounds and decorative elements like reeding, swags and star and shell accents.
In 1796, Sir Benjamin Thompson – also called Count Rumsford, designed a new fireplace model, which lasted into the 1900’s and held as a basis for all fireplaces today. His design was taller than it was wide and smaller and shallower with sharply angled covings on either side. Its narrow throat design also dispersed smoke and air more quickly.
Later in the mid 1800’s, as households began burning coal instead of wood there was a shift in design to horseshoe-arched cast iron styles.
More ornate fireplace designs emerged with the Victorian age in 1837. Designed with overmantels and columns these fireplaces included a cast-iron combination- the first inserts. The legs of the surround were also detailed with decorative tiles.
By the 20th century, the fireplace and mantel designs became simpler with surround molds of stone or brick.
Today fireplaces come in many shapes, designs and operate on propane and electric heat. To view our collection of propane fireplaces visit our Hearth and Home store.