Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Dead Men Tales: The Duke Mansion Mystery

HeatingHelp Posts: 490
edited July 2021 in THE MAIN WALL

The Duke Mansion Mystery

In this episode, Dan Holohan shares a whodunit mystery involving the hot-water-heating system at the sprawling mansion of Doris Duke.

Listen and subscribe here.

Thank you to our sponsor SupplyHouse.com.


  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 861
    Great story, Had on similar to that many years ago. Only difference it was inside.
    The house had a large solarium all made of glass a room 30 by 60 feet. No radiators.
    the house was heated to 70 degrees the solarium was 50.

    I went down into the basement and the basement and found a huge boiler with 8" pipe going out to building. I saw my first coal fired boiler with an automatic feeder and a Broomel heating system and marveled at how clean the boiler room was.

    The complaint about no heat started when the solarium was remodeled. A new wooden floor was overlaid the marble floor and then there was no heat.

    I went into the crawl space following all the pipe and crawled till I came to where the solarium was. up on the ceiling was a huge hunk of duct work with a cast iron heater. Duct work ran from the heater to the outside wall of the solarium and a duct from the inside waol of the solarium.

    What had happened is the new floor covered over the supply and return floor grates and tht caused the no heat problem.

  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,902
    Great save, Jake! Thanks for sharing. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 861
    Sorry, I did not enter the place. It was in Colts Neck, Long Island. The house was built by a retired Sea Captain from the wooden ship era. The house was passed down to the family and owned by his great grand daughter. That job was referred to me by my mentor Dan Holohan who taught me to write and helped me with my first article published in Heating and Piping Magazine, in 1986 followed by an article on sewage removal in high rise buildings. What I appreciated the most was Dan's review on my book Steam the Perfect Fluid for heating and some of the Problems.

    Many People believe in the old adage Out of Site out of Mind.

    In my retirement years my relationship with Dan has kind of disappeared but has not been forgotten because Dan changed my life and made me what I am today.

    Love you Dan, and will keep up my support for your web site which is the only one that is a learning site and at the same time helps home owners, trades people and contractors.

    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 111
  • aohare63
    aohare63 Member Posts: 1
    Love ALL of your stories, regardless of the subject! It's all in your delivery!
  • AnthonyReikow
    AnthonyReikow Member Posts: 23
    I LAUGHED MY A## OFF AT THE INTERACTIONS. You can't make this stuff up.
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 589
    So you liked indirects, you should have toured some of the Pittsburgh Public School buildings. Many of them had indirects in addition to the other radiation. The largest one that I remember most had a drive pulley that was about 10 feet in diameter to spin the paddle wheel blade. All but a couple were driven by those very wide flat belts of yesterday. I marveled at the start-up procedure for the drive motor.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,902
    Thanks, guys. And Jake, you’re the best ever. Thanks. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • mattman
    mattman Member Posts: 7
    Great story Dan. Back in my consulting days we worked on St. Louis Public Schools. They had massive boilers feeding steam to 100% outside air air handling units. These were massive and very slow rpm, with sheet steel that seemed better suited for an aircraft carrier. The air handler fed warm air into a concrete duct, which snaked below the basement. Sheet metal riser ducts branched off them with pneumatic damper actuators that probably worked well when Moses and Aaron installed them. The air went up to the rooms and then was relieved thru a series of chimneys. When it got too hot in the rooms, due to the fact the actuators failed, the teachers used their own form of temperature control. As one old timer engineer told me " they opened up the double hung zone valves." (Windows in layman's terms)
  • Controlsgirl
    Controlsgirl Member Posts: 10
    Another great story! Were these systems only in mansions? I've seen big grates in old homes. Is there anything that would give away whether the system was this system vs something like the octopus furnace?
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,887

    you would have to look in the basement. A warm air furnace would indicate an octopus. A boiler would indicate indirect radiators