As a history buff, who loves touring old mansions, estates and historical buildings I have often wondered if they still use the wood burning fireplaces that are sure to adorn every room. At one time these fireplaces were the only heat source for the room out of necessity, and many of them are absolute marvels of design and magnificence.
In my opinion an old fireplace is just as important as any other historical element of a building and therefore should be preserved and maintained for future generations to enoy. If preserving the fireplace and structure is your goal then it is surely contradictory to continue to use it to enjoy the ambiance of a fire in this day and age. Especially considering the potential damage you could be doing to the relic of a fireplace or the historical structure it is housed in.
Recently I stumbled upon this article from The Washington Post – U-Va. bans fireplaces in some historic rooms because of safety concerns.
My suspicions were affirmed. Just as I had feared, this story proclaims that the University of Virginia has recently banned the use of the fireplaces in each of the 106 historical dormitory rooms on campus. Apparently a recent roof restoration unveiled damage done to the mortar and linings of chimneys after many years of use. To fix it the cost will be astronomical ranging from $1 million to over $3 million after you factor in the addition of a sprinkler system.
This is heartbreaking considering the number of influential people who have graced the halls of U Va. Edgar Allan Poe and Woodrow Wilson at one time stayed in these very same dormitory rooms. Enjoying the ambiance, romance and sheer beauty of a fire has been a hallmark of this historical site and is cherished by those who are lucky enough to spend time at U Va.
Luckily, a completely safe, secure and efficient solution has been overlooked. By retrofitting these historical hearths with an electric firebox, the University of Virginia can bring these wonderful fireplaces back to life while preserving the historical importance of the space. An electric firebox can be installed in old wood fireplace masonry openings easily. Simply choose an electric fireplace that will fit, seal the fireplace opening, have an electrician install an electrical outlet and away you go. It’s that simple, and this retrofit will mean that the integrity of the mantel and original wood details are maintained while students and faculty have the ability to enjoy the flames year round with or without heat.