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.

How was my 1880's house heated?

AdmiralYoda
AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 535
edited October 2022 in Strictly Steam
This has always been a curiosity of mine. Looking back at census records our house was built and occupied in the 1885-1890 timeframe. The town records were destroyed in a fire around 1900 so any official surviving documents are long gone.

This Mill town exploded in population growth in the late 1800's and early 1900's. In the span of 20-30 years it went from Mill buildings and apartments owned by the Mills to many of the workers building their own homes on new land.

My house is a "cookie cutter" house as many of the houses on our street and general area share the same basic architecture but many have been added to over the past 100-150 years. It is a 1.5 story 1600 sq.ft house, nothing fancy. My assumption is that it was built as "affordably" as possible. This was an entry level house, not luxury by any means.

No evidence of a fireplace. I have only one 6" chimney (original) heated by NG starting in the early 80's. It was heated by oil before that to at least the 50's/60's. In the basement it looks like an old basement window or two has been bricked up quite some time ago, perhaps there was a coal chute once upon a time?

I have one column style radiator in the kitchen and the rest in the house are tube style. Currently no heat upstairs except for the bathroom but I've found holes in the floor of all three bedrooms which leads me to believe steam may have existed in those rooms at some time.

There are small round holes that have been cemented over on the walls adjacent to the chimney. My guess is a 4" or so stovepipe dumped directly into the chimney. There is another of these patch jobs on an exterior wall as well. Perhaps from old coal or kerosene stoves?

Lastly there is evidence in the kitchen of an old wood or coal cookstove that had a small chimney that went up the side of the house.

So what do you guys think the original house had for heat? Maybe the kitchen cookstove plus some small coal stoves in the bedrooms with steam added later? Or perhaps a coal powered steamer from very early on? The lack of a fireplace throws me off a bit.

Thanks everyone!

EDIT*** Forgot to mention it is a single pipe counterflow system. Some chunks of asbestos in hard to remove areas but 95% was removed at some point.

Comments

  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 452
    Thanks for sharing. As an entry level home, I highly doubt it was built with steam heat. More than likely the house had several coal or wood stoves and at some point they switched to an oil fired steam system.

    My grandparents home was built in 1880 as a summer boarding home. It had 10 bedrooms and small coal stove in each, with a few larger stoves on the first floor. In the 1950's my grandparents got a bunch of used radiators from a school that was being torn down and had an oil boiler installed with single pipe steam throughout the house.

    My home was built in 1910 with a brick chimney up through the center of the house. I have found 3 thimbles that have been filled in (kitchen, dining room, and basement), and there is evidence of a large floor grate and smaller vents up into the second story. The previous owner of the home said the home was heated with coal stoves until the 1950's when a GE boiler and hot water convectors were installed.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,416
    I'd agree most likely small coal stoves. Probably not wood in a more or less urban setting, and very doubtful that there was any form of central heating. Small coal stoves don't need much in the way of flues -- the 4 inch sounds about right -- and back in the bad old days no one worried about having two or more plugged into one flue in one chimney. It seemed to work... Those bricked up windows may very well have been for coal delivery, particularly if they are more or less accessible from the street.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    Evidence of a coal storage room is hard to hide.

    Some are still intact and obvious. If removed there may be the track of the lower and upper wall plates.

    And even some coal dust up on the sill plate.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,143
    There very possibly may have been only one stove originally that was for heating and cooking, the cook stove likely was a later addition by an owner that had saved some money. It wasn't at all a given that it was heated completely or evenly.

    @Robert_25, the hole in the floor near a breach with some vents to the second floor sounds a lot like a floor 'furnace, there were styles of floor furnaces that use a CI HX like a gravity furnace but just had a grate that stuck up through the floor. My house as built in the 20's and from the patch in the floor and the patched breach in the chimney I think that is what my house originally had.
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 535
    edited October 2022
    Wow, great information everyone thanks! As far as a coal chute...to be honest I have no idea what to look for and based on what @JUGHNE described there may not have been one. A farmers porch was added along the front and side of the house and the "footings" for the porch were made using modern-ish hollow concrete blocks.

    We have a small addition with its foundation made out of the same concrete blocks...which makes me think 50's or 60's construction. The framing for the farmers porch and addition is rough sawn lumber if that makes any difference. The windows that are bricked up in the basement may have been done so due to the farmers porch. There is no "room" in the basement for coal and not really any remaining evidence one was ever there.

    Around this time a pipe was installed to fill an oil tank which is no longer there. A plaque on the wall on how to start the oil boiler looks like its from around the same time though there is no date on it.

    So definitely oil fired steam in the 50's-ish but was that the first oil burner or was it converted from coal is the tough question. For a small house does there need to be a coal chute? It is very close to the street but perhaps the coal was brought in manually.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,143
    Sometimes they used a basement window instead of purpose made coal chute but there would still have to have been a coal bin somewhere.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863
    edited October 2022
    Our 1860s house had stoves.
    2 on the 2nd floor in the bedrooms , apparently something in the basement under the Livingroom and then a kitchen stove. The bedroom stoves had the clay thimble right in the wood lathe and plaster wall. The wood lathe around one was black and burned. They almost flew too close to the sun, but not quite.


    I even found where they were dumping the ashes in the backyard when I was digging for fence posts. Coal was stored in the basement.


    Something I find interesting is the guy that built our house was a carpenter, and his brother built right next door and for whatever reason chose fireplaces.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 663
    Klein Creek Farm, West Chicago, IL farmhouse built 1890
    https://www.dupageforest.org/kline-creek-farm
    I had a tour 12 years ago and recall it was entirely heated by pot belly stoves and the kitchen stove. No central heating. Let's take a walk around the exterior and then come into the rear kitchen to warm up. We'll travel counter clockwise starting at 8 o'clock. Note the three chimneys, two in the main house for pot bellies, one in the rear kitchen for the stove.
    8 o'clock


    4 o'clock


    4 o'clock


    1 o'clock


    burr, it's cold outside today

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,416
    Not all coal was delivered loose in a chute -- smaller amounts, as might be for stoves, was sometimes delivered in 100 pound sacks.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 535
    @Jamie Hall I remember my great grandfather in the 80's carrying bags of coal down to their basement when I was a little kid. Probably was a similar situation in my current house back in the day.

    Not that it makes much difference, I just have a fascination for how other people lived just a century ago. It would be interesting to find out all the secrets of my old house but I likely never will.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863

    @Jamie Hall I remember my great grandfather in the 80's carrying bags of coal down to their basement when I was a little kid. Probably was a similar situation in my current house back in the day.

    Not that it makes much difference, I just have a fascination for how other people lived just a century ago. It would be interesting to find out all the secrets of my old house but I likely never will.


    All I'll say is....

    They didn't have toilet paper.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 535
    @ChrisJ yup!  Gross.  Maybe if they were lucky the well pump was inside the house.  

    And without running water, I'd hate to be the person that got to wash all the poop rags.  And somehow they crammed 3 adults and 6 kids into this tiny 3 bedroom back then.  Must have smelled great!
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863

    @ChrisJ yup!  Gross.  Maybe if they were lucky the well pump was inside the house.  

    And without running water, I'd hate to be the person that got to wash all the poop rags.  And somehow they crammed 3 adults and 6 kids into this tiny 3 bedroom back then.  Must have smelled great!

    I've never heard of poop rags.
    I have heard alleged stories about ears of corn....

    @Jamie Hall ?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    Corn shucks....before they dry up.

    Or the Sears & Roebuck catalog.......last year's edition of course. Also gave reading material.

    And never a hand sink in sight...and most survived with good antibodies obtained by these methods.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863
    edited October 2022
    JUGHNE said:

    Corn shucks....before they dry up.

    Or the Sears & Roebuck catalog.......last year's edition of course. Also gave reading material.

    And never a hand sink in sight...and most survived with good antibodies obtained by these methods.

    Go ahead and look up the average age of death in 1800 to 1850.

    I'll stick with today's recommendations.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    JakeCKCanuckerethicalpaul
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    I did look up average age of death for those years.

    The infant mortality rate pulled that age down considerably.

    A lot of the causes was doctors not washing hands between patients or even autospies.
    Mothers and babies died from infection.

    TB was one of the main killers at that time.

    I am thinking of the 1920's thru 1960's with the outhouse usage.

    But everyone washed their hands before meals....sort of.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863
    JUGHNE said:
    I did look up average age of death for those years. The infant mortality rate pulled that age down considerably. A lot of the causes was doctors not washing hands between patients or even autospies. Mothers and babies died from infection. TB was one of the main killers at that time. I am thinking of the 1920's thru 1960's with the outhouse usage. But everyone washed their hands before meals....sort of.
    Yeah, the average is around 40 if you take the infants into consideration. 

    Certainly not what it is now.


    Use toilet paper.  Use a bidet if possible and always wash your hands.


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    Yes Mom, we have TP and a Bidet and do the hand washing.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863
    JUGHNE said:
    Yes Mom, we have TP and a Bidet and do the hand washing.
    Just want you to be healthy and live a decent life
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,416
    On the mortality -- the big difference between then and now is that relatively few people nowadays die young. 150 years ago, there was quite a variety of miscellaneous childhood ailments which got you, and then there was TB (a great aunt of mine, for instance, at about 24), and death in childbirth (a great great aunt of mine, at 22). And for men, work injury. But if you survived all that it wasn't at all unusual to live to be the biblical "three score and ten" -- 70 -- and even into the late 80s (a great grandmother of mine). And that hasn't changed in at least 2,500 years.

    Averages do strange things when distributions are strange...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863
    I feel like I shouldn't have to argue that eating waste is bad.

    @JUGHNE and @Jamie Hall have at it.   ;)
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    mattmia2
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,128
    And that is why vaccines are amazing.
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,128
    That said my mothers current house is a large farm house, it was originally heated by three pot belly stoves I believe. And of course the stove.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863
    I wish I had gotten my grand father's "Army Cannon heater"


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,128
    ChrisJ said:

    I feel like I shouldn't have to argue that eating waste is bad.

    @JUGHNE and @Jamie Hall have at it.   ;)

    Eating feces is bad. But an over sterile environment causes a whole laundry list of autoimmune disorders. Not to mention the evolution of super bugs.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,863
    JakeCK said:
    I feel like I shouldn't have to argue that eating waste is bad.

    @JUGHNE and @Jamie Hall have at it.   ;)
    Eating feces is bad. But an over sterile environment causes a whole laundry list of autoimmune disorders. Not to mention the evolution of super bugs.
    Yes that's a separate subject.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,082

    On the mortality -- the big difference between then and now is that relatively few people nowadays die young. 150 years ago, there was quite a variety of miscellaneous childhood ailments which got you, and then there was TB (a great aunt of mine, for instance, at about 24), and death in childbirth (a great great aunt of mine, at 22). And for men, work injury. But if you survived all that it wasn't at all unusual to live to be the biblical "three score and ten" -- 70 -- and even into the late 80s (a great grandmother of mine). And that hasn't changed in at least 2,500 years.

    Averages do strange things when distributions are strange...

    I wonder what impact the infant mortality rate in the US is having now? I understand our infant mortality rate is now right there with 4th world countries and the life expectancy in the US started dropping the just before the Pandemic hit. Many other factors like suicides and other responses to mental health issues, drug overdoses, etc. were supposed to be big factors even before the Pandemic started impacting the numbers.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 4,176
    I’m sure people who want to minimize COVID for bizarre reasons that don’t make sense to me are scrambling to blame it on all kinds of other causes, but until I see some science showing some other cause, it’s pretty clear what has hurt the US rates

    https://scitechdaily.com/covid-19-pandemic-caused-unprecedented-shock-decline-in-life-expectancy/
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    BobCCLamb