Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Heating it up with the Victorians

Glanmore (National Historic Site - 1883)
Maybe it's the relentless cold that has persisted for the past N months. Whatever it is, I have been enjoying thinking and photographing and reading and writing about places of fire - open hearth cooking fireplaces, beehive bake ovens, cast and sheet iron stoves, fireplace mantels of a variety of eras and styles. One thing is certain, when we get to the late 1800's, we get some of the most elegant fireplace mantels in the known world. Nobody outdid the Victorians in sheer exhuberant elegant excess.
north drawing room

These seven fireplaces are at Glanmore. Originally fitted out as gas or coal-burning fireplaces, they  augmented a convection heating system which utilized two basement fireplaces.

the dining room
The Victorian fireplace bears little resemblance to its hard-working cooking hearth cousins. Although it was less essential as a heating source (and never called upon  for cooking), the fireplace served as picturesque nostalgia, representing home, an important Victorian value, and hospitality - and was a fine place for pater familias to prop an elbow during after dinner port and cigars. It was certainly an excellent spot for your Parian ware, your cloisonné, glassware and painted china, candelabra and lustres and feather floral arrangements under bell jars, all arranged on decorative mantel scarves or lambrequins.

the library

And in that Victorian way of bigger is better, heavily ornamented overmantels with mirrors and shelves make an appearance. Although marble mantels were common by Victorian times, Glanmore's rooms have intricately carved mantels of mahogany and other woods, with applied decoration.  Several have arched openings and cast iron grate inserts while others are rectangular. Imported ceramic tiles surround the fireplaces in the dining room and billiard room; the breakfast room has hand-painted velvet panels.

Toronto furniture-makers Jacques and Hay, the Canadas' most prestigious firm from 1835-70, managed to break the gentry's preference for imported furniture with their fine machine produced walnut furniture, known for its high gloss and quality (dictionary Canadian Biography). I believe the elaborate overmantel in the dining room was fashioned by Jacques and Hay. I found a meticulous academic source on the company - a University of Ottawa doctoral thesis by Denise Jacques dated 2010. And I have Ruth Cathcart's book about the company on my wish list with Abebooks.
billiard room - a cut above

faux painted surround

breakfast room mantel - room restoration underway

For additional information about this amazing house, visit the website or pay Glanmore a visit!

I'll end on a nod to one of my favourite sources, Tom Cruickshank and his article Home Fires in the October-November 1986 issue of Century Home magazine.

No comments:

Post a Comment