Some of you maybe wondering in a house this old why there is no fireplace. This to has eluded me for a long time. Because as I have looked around the house I have found almost no sign of radiators (except possibly in the library), no sign of a fireplace that may have been removed, and the vents to the existing furnace appear to come from a later time period (1920?-1930?). So I had to wonder how did they heat this place in the early days. In 1893 Johnsburg was a small town that stood far away from the hustle and bustle of McHenry and Woodstock. There were no gas lines to speak of. In reality I think I have found two answers.
The first answer came to me on a quiet day at work and while I was listening to one my Architecture Podcasts and they said something about what the settlers brought back from their own countries to their new homes in America.
I stopped dead in my tracks. The Mertes’ and much of Johnsburg were Catholic German Immigrants and most likely there are certain building traditions they brought with them to this new world. I then remembered something my Swiss/German great grandmother Emilie said to my Grandmother. It was very common to have a central wood burning stove in the house and that the chimney heat would radiate through the space. We have a chimney on the living room west wall. Roughly in the center of the house… As soon as I got home I began my search.
Sure enough I found circular filler holes in the plaster where wood burning stoves had obviously connected to the central chimney in the living room and what is now the dressing room on the second floor.
Then I saw it. There was another circular patch on the west dinning room wall that is shared with the kitchen wing. That got me thinking. Originally there would have been a chimney for the kitchen stove but, I know that there was major renovations in the 1950s, 1970s and 2000s in the kitchen. Could there have been another chimney for the house? I’m thinking yes. While part of me yearns to put back the woodstoves, I now see that it is completely impractical in all locations…. Oh well.
The second way they heated the house came from talking to some of the Schaefer kids who lived in the house from the 1940s till 1999. They remembered coal being delivered through a basement window and a grate of some sort being outside the bathroom that could be opened with a crank and chains. This meant they had a coal burning furnace in the basement that would circulate hot air through the house via a grate in the dinning room floor and a vent in the dinning room ceiling that goes to the Lavender bedroom. The vent in the dinning room ceiling is still in place and leads to some very funny moments of our cats looking down at Sara and I.
Well that is one discovery to our house that has many secrets yet to be revealed.