Monday, January 17, 2011


A 240 year old house is bound to have a lot of secrets. Unfortunately the house was completely renovated in the mid 1950's, so I feel like any cool "treasures" were found then, when a lot of the walls were ripped down and replaced. If we ever tear up any of the floors, we'll probably find fun stuff, but it's not something we're planning on doing anytime soon.

But the house still gives us some hints about some of it's secrets. For example, when we had our house inspection, R discovered a hidden fireplace in the Master Bedroom. Once we found that fireplace (which is hidden behind cabinetry), we concluded that there must be one in the other front bedroom, and it's just been drywalled over for some reason.

Well, we were wrong.

Last weekend R was putting some Christmas boxes in the attic for me and got distracted. He ended up on the floor, pulling up floor boards, and sticking his head down in the hole, to see what was behind that bedroom wall. Turns out there isn't a fireplace there. Just a big open space where a fireplace should be. The next day we were in the Dining Room and  I realized that there was an outline of a square on the ceiling, in what looked like the same spot as the patched floor in the bedroom, and roughly the same size. R came up with the idea that maybe there was once a vent there that allowed heat from the large Dining Room fireplace to spread easily into the bedroom, heating it because it didn't have a fireplace.

Which makes sense. What doesn't make sense is why there isn't a fireplace in that room. It's common in this type of house for there to be a fireplace off each side of the chimney. It's what made sense, and what was necessary to heat the rooms. I find it hard to believe that this room had  no heat source until the early 1900's or so when the radiators were put in. And the heat vent that R mentioned made sense in the 1800's, but not when the house was built.

So I've come to this conclusion. At one time, early in the house's life, there was a fireplace in this room. At some time (my guess is in the 1860's when the Mildrums moved in) the fireplace was removed and the vent between the Dining Room and Bedroom was installed. And I think this was done to create that big open space behind the wall. It took me some time to come to this conclusion.. it didn't hit me until later this week when R unstuck the cabinet door in our bedroom that conceals our fireplace (it had been painted shut). When he did that, we were able to see a "passageway" that went between the walls of the bedroom closets and the chimney. I had always wondered why the fireplace wasn't centered in the cabinet opening. I now believe that the cabinet was built off center to allow access to this passageway. If someone was skinny enough, they could squeeze sideways through the passageway into the larger open space on the other side of the chimney. The open space could easily fit a bunch of people, completely concealed from the outside world. Which completely corroborates what our neighbors told us about our house being part of the Underground Railroad. I just have to get up my courage to squeeze into the passageway (ee... mice... spiders...claustrophobia) and get to the other side of the chimney to see if there's anything cool back there!

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