From the hearth
The Passion Pit restoration is almost
complete. Our last challenge is the
Living Room fireplace. In 1917 the
original owners installed a costly
Rookwood Faience Tile mantel (left)
that was truly a statement. Over the
years somebody ripped this beauty
out along with other jewels such as
the staircase landing Tiffany window.
Gone but not forgotten, nobody
seems to know where they went.
All we know is that we're left with
a gaping hole in the wall.
Stripped of it's splendor, the
masonry is roughshod at best.
Never intended for the public,
it must be covered. Almost
as awful was the gas fireplace
insert crammed into our black
hole. Even worse, someone
damaged the chimney making
it now only usable for a gas
fire or logs. Our only blessing
is that Frank's brother "B" is
a stone mason. Only he can
bring our hot box back to life!
Initial research showed that replacing
the Rookwood mantel is not an option.
The same model number as indicated
on the original blue prints recently
sold at auction for forty five thousand
dollars. To be honest I was relieved!
Although a preservationist, the classic
craftsman aesthetic is not something
I want to live with on a daily basis.
We have the original architectural
renderings for the existing mill work.
Our quandary was framing the context
for our new replacement mantel.
Assuming the mantel
While on the exterior our home
is a melange of Arts & Crafts,
Frank Lloyd Wright, Mission,
and Craftsman, the interior is
predominantly classic Colonial
Revival. Given the plethora of
period documentation available,
I quickly amassed a formidable
file of mantel inspiration. And
yet, something was missing.
I wanted a connection between
our new mantel and old house.
Pseudo solutions would not do.
Another man's trash
Then one day Frank's father made a
suggestion that changed everything.
A stone mason, his company was
hired to "modernize" a local bank in
the mid sixties. Built in 1916 (a year
before the Pit), the majestic marble
manse (left) was deemed dated. So,
Frank Sr. and his team ripped out the
Carerra, dropped the ceiling, and
replaced it with mid century pecan
panelling. A stone lover, Dad could
not fill a dumpster with such beauty.
So with permission... he kept it.
Hence Dad's suggestion. Out
in the warehouse was sitting
the bank's original front door
marble frame. Could we use
that for our new fireplace?
I found this picture of a 1917
mantel (right) that is a close
match. Shortly thereafter
brother "B"and contractor
Bill designed a surround that
incorporates said salvaged
marble lintel with a brand
new wooden mantel. Perfect!
The eternal flame
I can't wait to install this
unique collaboration. What
was once deemed trash will
soon be treasure. While not
original to the house, part
of our new mantel is part
of Lewistown's history.
Add it's connection to
Frank's father and it only
becomes even more special.
What a fitting tribute to our
community and family that
we will love and cherish!