Main Architecture Chimney Hearth Basement

Architecture of the Spier House:

Basement Hearth

Hearths in the basements of buildings in the United States have European origins.  Their use in early American houses seems to be most influenced by both the English and Dutch traditions.  A basement hearth commonly had another hearth above it to heat the first floor and sometimes a third hearth above that to heat the second floor of a building.  In order to contain two or three separate flues for the stacked fireplaces, the chimney needed to be fairly wide.  Basement hearths in early America were frequently associated with inns and taverns.  They could also be found in houses of the wealthy that had domestic service.  Most often, if a basement contained a fireplace, it was used as a kitchen for food preparation and cooking. 

A comparative study of other houses with basement hearths shows that the Spier House’s basement fireplace opening was more slender than the typical fireplace of the late 18th or early 19th Century.  It was built at a time when a transition was occurring in fireplace design.  The wide Colonial hearths of the 18th Century had begun to narrow into the Victorian fireplace.  The massive, continuous stone lintel (the top of a fireplace opening) of the basement hearth, as well as the other two fireplaces in the Spier House, was more desirable than a broken one.  These impressively long lintels demonstrate the availability of high-quality granite in the Spier House vicinity.