When we added onto our house at Brant Lake we decided to include a fireplace in the living room–situated between two French windows that looked out on the lake.
When I first saw the fireplace I expected the rough stone construction customary in country homes, with a wide opening that often took out the warm air in the room, resulting in a colder room.
That was not the case with our fireplace. Our fireplace was a Rumford fireplace consisting of man made stone that resembled concrete and had a narrow opening and angled back. Bricks lined the interior sides. At first I questioned the design but the builder assured me that this design would save heat that would be reflected into the room.
He added that the fireplace was designed by Lord Rumford, an Anglo–American physicist in the 1790s. Old-fashioned? Yes, but the most efficient fireplace you can find. Also, the narrow wall will carry away the smoke, he said. All the smoke will go up the chimney instead of into the house. This would be the perfect fireplace!
My first fire: I placed the dried oak logs into the fireplace and, true to its reputation, the fireplace sent out warm streams of air that enveloped the room. And there was no smoke!
Midway through the evening I approached the Rumford to place more logs in the opening. Suddenly I heard a crashing sound and jumped away before the stone mantle and sides split and fell on the floor, narrowly missing me.
When the construction workers came to examine the ruins they said the stones were only glued to the wall but not really secure. Laboriously, they put metal spikes into the wall and fastened the reconstructed fireplace to the spikes.
“I wonder why that happened,” one of the workmen mused. But I knew the answer. With the fireplace, as with all of life, to keep it together you need a strong foundation.
Whether in stone or in a living being.