Stand-alone courses or full certificate
programs like Kitchen & Bath Design
or Residential Interiors
The problems start at Washington’s “
staircase fronting,” where the space between the
front door and the stairs that hug the chimney is barely enough to be called a hallway.
(Melville called it a “square landing-place.”)
Taking off coats and hats, not to mention
muddy or snow-covered boots, was enough
of an inconvenience that enclosed vestibules
soon sprouted in front of homes to give a little
extra entry space. Upstairs, access to the rear
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The very volume and
centrality that made
for good heating
got smack in the way
of other important
functions, like passing
through the building,
and allowing privacy
in the bedrooms.
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Project by Hutker Architects
Photograph © Brian Vanden Brink
bedchambers was often by way of the front
ones. “These folks had a tolerance for walking through rooms much greater than ours,”
So no surprise that as heating technology improved (smaller, shallower fireplaces
were found to throw heat better, for example),
people’s desire for a better floor plan won the
day. Owners of Georgian and Federal homes
gloried in their central halls, which often had
grand stairways and private bedrooms, all
made possible by the migration of the chimneys to the ends of the building.
For those living in their old central-chimney houses, the choices were putting up
with it, modernizing the fireplace by shrinking it, or removing the thing entirely, a major
piece of surgery. While Melville ultimately
persuaded his wife to take the first option,
Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson, took the
last, “splitting” the first-floor chimney of the
family’s home in Concord, Massachusetts,
to make way for a central hall.
Still, much endures from those early
days of English carpenters and masons. Drive
through any suburb, down any cul-de-sac,
and there are center-entrance Colonials in
multitudes. Just don’t look for center chimneys — they’ve gone the way of the whaling