Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fireplace Crime of the Century

Caught in the Act: Fireplace Vandal at Work

This morning I was thawing my ice cubes by a three-log crackler when I heard my laptop beep. A fellow fireplace enthusiast, my friend Richard, was contacting me via Instant Messenger to share an article he'd found in Monday's New York Times. "Did you see this?!?" he had typed above the link. "Outrageous! I'm still wiping the tears!"

As a matter of fact, I had not seen the article. Since shortly after New Year's I've been on a self-imposed sabbatical from the fireplace business and, yes, from this blog, so I could get some work done on my memoir-in-progress, Snap, Crackle, Pop: Confessions of a Lifelong Log-Burner.

When I opened the link, however, I realized just why Richard was so upset. Apparently, some couple in New York purchased a historic Harlem brownstone and ripped out not only all but one of the antique fireplaces but the claw foot tub, two enamel stoves, 12 sets of built-in cabinet shelving and enough molding, it seems, to outfit an entire bed-and-breakfast.

Yeah, the author was contrite about her fireplace faux pas -- she offered all kinds of excuses about lead paint and bank loans and yadda-yadda-yadda, as they say -- but that doesn't change the fact that what she and her husband did gives an old log burner like me the chills. My friend Richard, who works as a historic preservationist, was so livid he thought we should notify congress.

"No sense in that," I typed, which at least got a virtual chuckle.

The fact is, no matter what I may think about what this lady and her hubby did, it's her fireplace to do with as she pleases, and it's too late to do anything about it now anyway. The decorative mantels have been hauled off by a salvage team, and with them, more history than you'll find in the first five chapters of my book.

Oh well. What's done is done, and you can't cry over a demolished hearth, now can you?

Here's hoping, at the very least, the lady invests in a few quality replacement fireplaces to make up for what's lost, and maybe picks out some good-looking fireplace doors to match her new decor. You can't bring back the past once you sell it to the junk man, but at least you can dress up the future. And from what it sounds like reading the piece, the poor couple needs to make things more than right just to get forgiveness from their family and friends, never mind the fireplace enthusiast community.

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