Maine Farmhouse Journal

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Mystery of the Hanging Chimney

November 11 - 14, 1999

It has always puzzled me why the Farmhouse had 2 1/4 chimneys. Originally, when the Farmhouse was built around 1830, there was probably a large center chimney with fireplaces. This was typical of the era, and signs of the chimney foundation remain in the cellar (see "Carriage House Restoration Begins"). At some point, one of the former owners replaced the large central chimney with two new ones. One good-sized chimney was built, and now serves the oil/wood furnace in the cellar.  A smaller chimney provided flues for stoves in the living room and upstairs bedroom. A third chimney was built when the kitchen ell was added to the Farmhouse.

Sometime around 1956 Dot's father and brother Lawrence removed the living room chimney - from the cellar up through the first floor, and from the attic floor up through the roof. The portion of the chimney on the second floor, in the front southwest bedroom, was left in place - hanging in space. Dot's father didn't see any need for taking it out at the time, and it has remained there since.


Regardless of the reasons why the part-of-a-chimney was left there, hanging, it had to be removed before we could remove the partition in the living room below. Opening up the stairwell would lighten up the dark living room and accentuate the curved wall as a nice feature of the room. Before the wall came out, this weight from the chimney had to go.

Grandson Derek, on leave from the Navy, our fourth son Rusty, and Paul - all arrived at the Farmhouse on Saturday to begin work on the chimney and several other chores. I spun tales of how the chimney was left there as a hiding place for gold and jewels - and that they could share in whatever treasure they found if they'd help me take it out! Someone suggested that there was probably a dead body, or at least a pile of bones, hidden there. If there wasn't some great, dark secret, why would anyone have left half a chimney hanging in space?

While Derek and I attacked the inch thick horsehair plaster on the chimney, Paul rigged up a wooden chute to slide the bricks and debris out the window and over the front porch to the yard below. Derek proved especially adept at demolition, and whaled away with a sledge and cold chisel with a vengeance!

Through the plaster
and into the bricks

"Here's the stove thimble" I said. "Let me get the cap off, and we'll see if there is anything inside"

The rusty thimble cap had been plastered over, and hadn't been removed in years. With a little help from one of the cold chisels, I pulled off the cap.

We peered inside, expecting the hanging chimney to give up its secrets - it was full of soot!

"Don't worry", Derek said. "All the gold and jewels have probably settled to the bottom - we'll get them when we take all the bricks down." Once we got a few bricks loose, they all started to come apart easily.

Nearly done

While Derek ripped the chimney apart, brick by brick, I hauled armloads of bricks to the chute and slid them to the ground. Six bricks to a course, with courses running eight feet or more from the second story ceiling to the floor.

When we got done, all that was left was a pile of soot and mortar - no treasure, no secrets, just an old, disused section of chimney that probably should have been taken down back in 1956 when the rest of it was removed. Ah well, it was fun puzzling over the mystery of the hanging chimney, and Derek and I had fun demolishing it!

First Snow of the Season

The first snow of
winter came early

The dogs and I awoke Saturday morning to an inch of wet, heavy snow on the ground. The weather forecast had been for bad weather, and the temperature had dropped into the high 'teens the night before. Our original plans were for Paul, Derek, Rusty and I to replace the metal on the back side of the carriage house roof with new roofing and shingles. The snow and cold changed our minds, however, and we worked on some other chores that needed to be done. While Derek and I worked on the hanging chimney, Russ and Paul tackled the siding work that needed to be done before winter.

Russ and Paul removed the bits and pieces of old siding from the front of the barbershop and porch, and replaced it with new. The sky cleared up, and it turned into a fairly nice, brisk day to work outside. We have closed in the area where the barbershop door used to be, and it is now completely sided over so that you can't tell it was there. This will give us more wall space in our dining room, which we will locate in Ephraim's old barbershop.

Russ found two old license plates embedded in the cement steps leading to the barbershop door. They are dated 1930, and we figured that they were placed there to memorialize the fact that Ephraim and Lunetta had purchased the Farmhouse from Fred Meserve in 1930. (It also would have been the 100 year anniversary of the house!) The poured cement steps are pretty massive, and we'll build a planter around them as part of the landscaping for the front of the house rather than try and remove them.

Replacing the siding. Note the new Batroom windows
and the brick chute over the front porch.

Another trip, and a bit more progress. Things are now starting to come together, and in the next few months the bulk of the major restoration efforts will be done. What is left, however, will take a lifetime to complete - but that is fine. Like John Hartford says "God, don't let me wake up one morning and be bored!" Somehow, I don't think that will every happen.

Allen and Penny Crabtree

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Last updated January 3, 2000