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Friday, May 3, 2013

PUZZLE: HISTORIC CHIMNEYS WITHOUT A HOME




Two chimneys without a home



What the heck, I thought when I spotted these two high standing chimneys, alone along a rural road  in Madison County. Where is the house?  



Pulling over to the side of the road I could see that these chimneys were historical -- probably from the mid-1800s or before.  But without the actual physical presence of the house it was difficult to sense the house form that once stood between the chimneys.  



I got out of my small black truck and started taking photos from the roadside.  I stood and tried to figure out why the house was gone while the monstrous chimneys were left standing. 



My first thoughts were that the house probably had burned down recently until I realized that mature trees were now growing in the space where a house would have stood.  At that point I scratched my head and asked myself why the two old chimneys were left standing all these years. 






Right chimney 



The chimney on the right had a metal pipe nearby its fireplace maybe for water (?), which could mean that it was remodeled for indoor plumbing later in its life. If this were true I would think that this side of the house served as the kitchen area? Obviously no basement as trees were growing at ground level between the two chimneys.






Right chimney
Close up of chimney fireplace.



Opening of the fireplace appeared to be white limestone rock.







Left chimney  with  two fireplaces.



I noticed that the top fireplace was sealed off. White plaster of some sort was partly surrounding both fireplaces. 







 Left chimney fireplace with limestone around opening -- duplicating right chimney



Sure would value some thoughts on this missing house. Why are the chimneys still standing? Did the house burn down? Have you ever seen chimneys left standing alone on a homestead for a long period of time -- after the house was gone? Any other ideas?

By the way --  the front yard was filled with a scattering of wild spring daffodils. The only life left on the old homestead.




30 comments:

  1. I have no ideas why they would be left standing but I am sure glad that they are. Fabulous pictures!

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    1. BIRDIE -- They are like sentinels of the past -- thanks -- barbara

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  2. I must admit that I have never seen anything like this. I saw no signs of a fire, so somebody must have demolished the house, but not the chimney. very strange.

    Re your comment - we are ...

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    1. RuneE -- I had not seen anything like them either. I don't think there was a fire? Not sure of anything with this place. I think you possibly could be right -- the house was demolished by someone. The bricks in the chimneys would be very desirable by folks who restore.

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  3. Good question. I dare say a local historical society might have members who know the answers...or at least the local paper's archives would mention a fire maybe 25-30 years ago at least...the age of the trees isn't something I would know very well. All traces of the fire would have long vanished, but I'm guessing the house was frame for all of it to have disappeared. But there looks to be some junk in the area as well. And then there's the concrete block construction behind the main area. If you really wanted to know, I bet the property is somehow listed in country records...but I've never searched them so I'm not really much help. But I love the question you posed, and some sleuth may find the answers.

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    1. Barbara -- I have given it some thought to contact the county historical society where I found the chimneys. Perhaps they would know but they have such a small staff and it was found in a very large county. I will send them some of the photos. Myself, I know that I could research the county records but unfortunately I don't have the time anymore to do that kind of work. I am so busy riding the roads -- recording what I see that I don't have any time left. But I do intend to talk to the locals next time I am near this place. Locals are good sources of information. thanks for the good comments -- barbara

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  4. You always make your photos so interesting, thank you.
    And, I just spotted a lone chimney near a small creek, got to check that out too.

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    1. Diane -- Oh great idea to check out your chimney by the creek. Possibly belongs to an old homestead. Thanks for the very nice comment -- barbara

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  5. Looking once again at the photo and noticing on the second floor, I would assume, it looks like a painting of a woman on the fireplace wall. I do have an artistic imagination at times.

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    1. Diane -- I got my magnifying glass out to look at what I think you are looking at. The second floor fireplace opening appears to have some type of cover on it. Maybe there was a drawing on it that is now partly gone. I could see where one would think this is a woman's face and perhaps it is. I took this photo from a distance as the property was fenced and also I did not have permission to walk on the place. thanks again -- barbara

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  6. I've been looking closely at the photos -- interesting mystery. My first thought was a fire but even after all this time, surely the bricks would show some soot or smoke -- or maybe not, considering the size of those trees. A true mystery, a fascinating one.

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    1. June -- Perhaps someday a local will explain the mystery of the standing chimneys. Next time I am in the area I will start talking with the old timers, if I can find any, and they surly will have a solution to this puzzle. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  7. My hubby looked as he built fireplaces all his 30 odd years.
    Some of the top bricks both have been replaced the rest of bricks atleast 100 years old on the bottom.

    He said great find.

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    1. sparkle -- Oh good -- we have an expert looking at the chimneys! I thank him for his comment on the age of the bricks. I do know that there are inside bricks and outside bricks -- either fired at different temperatures -- or at least that is what I have learned from others. The inside building bricks cannot be used for outside projects or the weather will eventually crumble them. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  8. It looks to me as if the house was being demolished at some point, maybe because of a fire. The chimneys being so massive were left to stand until the forces of nature would knock them down...so far the chimneys are winning!!! Yea!!!

    Gorgeous photos...I am always on the side of "forgotten places" :)

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    1. Jan -- Your ideas are plausible. The house did not have any signs of smoke damage -- it would have shown up especially on the white chimney plaster. If they manually tore it down at some point they didn't leave any remnants of the house -- except for the chimneys. But since I did not walk on the private land I could not really look closely at the scattered remains especially around that late built concrete block building. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  9. I am always so drawn to places such as this.
    Especially loving the flowers growing there.
    How glorious to be able to stand amid the rubble and wonder how it might have been.

    You always post the most beautiful things!

    Have a lovely and story filled day!

    *hugs*
    Mimi
    The Goat Borrower

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    1. Mimi -- Such nice comments -- thanks. Amazing how wild daffodils can prevail in a yard even when they have lost their caretaker. Yes, one does stand and imagine what transpired in this home so long ago. -- barbara

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  10. I'd say the house was destroyed by fire years ago. It reminds me of the chimney left of the old Walton homestead on the tv show The Waltons. I love how you can still find daffodils growing in the woods where houses once stood. A memory of a family that once lived there that comes back year after year.

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    1. Janet -- Oh the Waltons -- that was a great series! Now that you mentioned it I do remember the old Walton chimney. What is it about the chimney that it is left in place when the house is gone. A "place marker" for the family -- to remind them of those that lived before them? Memories? Hmm -- thanks for the thoughtful comment -- barbara

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  11. Barbara, I had several thoughts about these chimneys. One, I think the house burned. There are many such standing chimneys in West Virginia. My husband has joked about local volunteer fire departments really being "chimney savers" because often by the time they reach rural locations all that is left standing is the chimney. All signs of the fire could wash/wear away over the course of many years. Larry also wondered if the house was burned during the Civil War; many homes in the South suffered that fate, as you know.

    The pipes may have been for water that was piped to radiant heaters, but depending on when the house burned (and this would negate the Civil War theory), they may have been gas as it was installed in a fairly rudimentary fashion in the early days of its use. The sealed off fireplace might not have been needed if gas was used for heat.

    My husband, a brick mason, agreed that the brick was old, probably 1800's manufacture or early 1900's. The fact that the left chimney is partially collapsed makes me wonder if the fire started there--intense heat will destroy mortar.

    A mystery indeed. And don't you wonder about the people who built it, and how they lived? Sometimes I can almost hear their voices when I am around such a site.

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    1. Granny Sue -- Like your husband's comment about local fire departments being "chimney savers." I did not see any signs of a burn but maybe weathering over hundred plus years would wear away just about anything.

      Yes, I do remember pipes leading to radiators but I believe that was steam heat so maybe pipes could have been for steam or gas?

      You are the second person that has commented on these chimneys that has a brick mason husband. Sparkle above, has a mason husband -- they live in the UK I believe. Her husband's response was similar to your husband's.

      It is a mystery -- I wonder about the chimneys left standing that you mention seeing in West Virginia? I know that the upland south has very tight knit families -- could this be traditional within some families or localities? Reminders of past family? thanks for your thoughts -- barbara

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  12. My un-expert opinion is that the home was dismantled for its wood and moved or used on another building somewhere? It may have been done for historical, sentimental, or monetary reasons. Since those options preserve the idea the building may still be alive and well somewhere nearby, I am going with that versus a fire. I was a chimney saver in my youth, although we did save the surrounding home more often than not. I love this post and the mystery you've unearthed.

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    1. Raining Iguanas -- So I take it you were a volunteer fireman in your younger days -- a chimney saver. I think you might be on to something -- rebuilding the house in another location either in its historical form or into a creative form? And possibly for monetary or sentimental too? Like I said in some previous comments I need to find time to talk to the locals for some insight. It is unfortunate that this homestead was quite a distance from where I live or else I would be there finding locals who would have the scoop. Someday. thanks -- barbara

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  13. I have run across long standing chimneys many times in Arizona and New Mexico. Old, old homesteads - and no trace of anything but the chimney. Forlorn and no longer needed - they always sadden me deeply. I am thinking that most likely they survive because of the strong and weather and fire resistant materials from which they are made. Unlike the houses which so often were constructed of wood and even if they are never burned, rot in time.And once that rot begins, it takes a relatively short time for it to completely disintegrate the wood.

    I love visiting your site and seeing your images. Old homes and barns in any state are always a favorite subject for my own camera. But you do a masterful job with yours!

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    1. pam -- I think you might be on to something. The house might have rotted while the bricks remain. Sparkle's comment above notes that her mason husband feels the bricks are about 100 years old. That would give nature time to bring down a wooden house. Many homes in this area are more than 100 years old. thanks for your comment -- barbara

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  14. I have often wondered about this same occurance. They are just beautiful when you come across them. After asking around repeatedly, I had a friend who mentioned that OSHA has seperate guidelines for demolition of fireplaces/chimneys. It is a completely seperate permit and paperwork. I wonder if the cost or guidelines are so much so that people don't bother with it and just leave them as is. I have also read where owners have demolished an old house and then rebuilt around the existing chimney(s). Hope that helps.

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    1. Jan -- I did not know that OSHA had separate guidelines for demolition of fireplaces/chimneys. I have a feeling, after living in KY six years, that the country folks are pretty independent and would just take down a chimney with or without OSHA. Of course this idea of OSHA does shed some light on what can or cannot be done. I am still scratching my head about the whole remaining chimneys. Of course I will not be able to talk to the locals as I have now moved to Vancouver, Washington. thanks for your comment -- barbara

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