There's this thing on Instagram, started by @amyleigh_1902victorian, called #52weeksofhome. It's a photo challenge of sorts, encouraging people to share pics of their house per the weekly theme. Long story short, this week I posted a pic of the dining room fireplace.
Truth be told, before taking a pic of the dining room fireplace I'd never removed the summer cover. Didn't even know how to remove it.
Let's back up a minute.
The house is sometimes a little tricky to figure out. Some things are clearly original. Some things are clearly not. And then there are some items, like the marble fireplace hearths, surrounds, and mantels, that are head-scratchers. The fireplaces in general, I don't really know their story (yet).
Inside the house, there are 2 fireplaces, both with identical marble treatment. Up on the roof, there are 3 definite chimneys and, like, 1 course of bricks that are the remnants of a 4th. Dumbest thing ever, leaving 1 course of bricks like that, because it left a big hump in the roof at the low end and all it does is serve as a dam for all the acorns and twigs and leaves trying to make their way off the roof.
That 4th/demo'd chimney, it's at the back of the house in what's now the kitchen and at one time it served a fireplace. The firebox is buried behind drywall and cabinets, but I poked enough investigative holes to know that it's there. No mantel surround or mantel, though. Maybe it was more like something that was used for cooking.
I know the home had 3 fireplaces originally, based on the floor framing that's visible in the basement. Regardless of whether or not the marble hearths are original, the floor was framed to accommodate a very heavy hearth material in the fireplace locations.
Then there's the issue of the marble. Is it original? I have a really, really hard time believing that it is. In alllllll the old houses I've been in, which includes a lot of big, ornate homes, most of the original mantels and surrounds were made of wood. My house is relatively small and doesn't scream "fancy".
Then again, my house is older than most of the old homes I've been in. And it was a one-off, not one of several homes built speculatively or constructed by a builder who was building 10+ homes at a time. It may be small in area, but it's got tall ceilings and a lot of detail - some of it subtle - that means I can't rule out the possibility that maybe the original owners spent their money more on details than square footage.
Anyhow, the summer cover is a head-scratcher too. And there's only one; the living room fireplace has a more modern set of glass fireplace doors.
When I decided to get a pic of the fireplace for the 'gram, I figured I'd clean the summer cover up as best I could. The vacuum and little brush attachment weren't cutting it so I took the cover off to wash it in the bathtub. The mess in the firebox was way past the point of a standard residential vacuum, so I painstakingly drug the shop-vac up from the basement (the basement stairs - original to the house - are all of .0000001" wider than the shop-vac).
Or course before doing any cleaning, I inspected the summer cover for anything that might give away its age. I found lots of clues on the inside face...but no answer.
By all appearances, the side that faces the dining room is in pristine condition. A little too pristine, ya know? That makes it easy to lean towards the summer over being a reproduction of a more vintage piece.
Then again, the inside face is a little rough and if a company were gonna to go to the trouble of make reproductions, unless they were using the exact, original cover to form the mold for casting, would they go to the trouble of including those little details? I say "not a chance". This makes me think maybe it's more 1889 than 1989.
And then there's the firebox itself, which is a whole 'nother can of unknown worms. I'll get into that next time.