Curatorial Director Dave answers your questions.
I heard that all of the fireplaces at 97 Orchard Street are boarded up. When and why did this happen?
Paint analysis suggests the fireplaces at 97 Orchard Street were covered up when the building was built in 1863 or shortly thereafter. Whoever designed the apartments may have never intended the parlor fireplaces to operate but installed them because Victorian-era “parlor making,” even in working-class homes, required a hearth in the parlor.
The fireplace enclosures vary in style and suggest alteration over time. By the late 1860s, the openings were simply enclosed with shutters. Later in the 19th century, the fireplace mantels were removed and either the entire wall was replastered or the fireplace opening was enclosed with bead board.
A shuttered fireplace in the parlor of a second-floor apartment at 97 Orchard Street.
An unrestored apartment, which shows a plastered-in fireplace in the kitchen. The large hole is where the coal stove pipe would have been inserted, using the chimney for ventilation. Photo by Keiko Niwa.