Historic Houses
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North Carolina

Fireplace Hidey Holes
"We have a home that was built in 1860. The home originally was 4 rooms 15x20 each with a central fireplace (fireplaces in each room in corner). In the public rooms being the two rooms that appeared to have been used as living room and parlor, there are openings built into the masonary at the top of the fireplace and below the mantles. The openings are about 12 inches deep and 6 inches high and are designed in such a way that they looked ornamental and not openable. We are trying to determine the purpose of these hidey holes (as we call them). They do not get hot when there is a fire in the fireplace, so we don't think they were used to dry seeds or such. (We have thought of maybe a glove warmer or sock/shoe warmer, but then again they don't get hot)."

Merrymeeting: Jeremy Irons is an historic mason who lectures in the New England area. He was asked a similar question, and one of his theories is that this is where people may have stored kindling for the fireplace.

Central Virginia

"We are trying to find information on how to build an historically accurate "well" for the local museum. This will be my son's Eagle Scout project. The local museum is in Central Virginia, circa 1850, and the well is already dug next to the farmhouse."

Merrymeeting: Woodward's Country Homes contains pictures of a well house. There is an illustration of a plain old well house from circa 1850s, or, in their words, "a time when work was done honestly" and another picture showing the well house updated to an 1860s gothic-Victorian well. Carpentry can be followed based on the illustration, noting details such as the increased overhang of the roof, baseboard proportion, paneling, and gothic decorations.

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