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Count Rumford corner fireplace

[Partially completed corner adobe fireplace: 31k]

Our fireplace was a joint effort. Mike Lord did the guts that make it work perfectly. I designed the unstuccoed front to blend with our adobe walls as a variation on the New Mexico beehive style.

Figure 1: Partially completed fireplace with stepped arch.

Count Rumford was born in Massachusetts, but he returned to England during the American Revolution. In both America and England, he built and renovated fireplaces to be more heat efficient. He published a book on fireplace design in 1795. Vrest Orton rediscovered his work and wrote a book, The Forgotten Art of Building a Good Fireplace, published by The Yankee Press in Dublin, New Hampshire. In the 1970's, Mew Mexican mason Albert Avila combined the Rumford design with the traditional New Mexico corner design to make a modified Rumford Corner Fireplace.

Very complete design instructions for both styles, including the dimensions of the firebox, are in The Earthbuilders Encyclopedia, pp. 43-46.

Some of the distinctive features are:

[Alamos, Sonora, Mexico corner stuccoed burnt adobe fireplace:24k]

Figure 2: Our fireplaces in Alamos have a subtle interior arch.

My 1930 adobe in Tucson has a Rumford fireplace and our house in Alamos has corner fireplaces with some Rumford traits. Both have smoke shelves. I discovered the Tucson shelf when my Siamese cat had her kittens on it. Interestingly, neither of these two fireplaces have dampers.

Rumford fireplaces are well known in New Mexico, but I had a hard time finding a builder in Tucson. Our friends had just completed their adobe house with a Rumford fireplace and they introduced us to Mike. He had also built a Count Rumford at his bed and breakfast, Crickethead Inn.

Mike Lord not only did our fireplace, but also did all our electrical, plumbing and carpentry. Both the Joseph's and Mike's fireplaces are stuccoed and incorporate unique pieces of wood as mantles. All the fireplaces use firebrick inside, have interior ceramic flues and are topped with bird proof, waterproof, metal vent caps. Our chimney rises just high enough above the parapet to draw properly.


[First fire blazing in our Rumford fireplace on a winter day: 29k]

Figure 3: The first fire, December 1992. If we look cold, it's because there are no windows or doors installed yet, and it's a rainy, grey afternoon.


[Pasepa by the fire: 31k]

Figure 4: Our Fijian friend, Pasepa Swann, enjoying the fire on Christmas Eve, 1997.

We use the stepped mantle as a Christmas tree substitute.

See also:

Back to House made of mud or browse Count Rumford corner fireplace | Detail of adobe arch framework | Fixed glass windows | Site built doors and windows with side vents | Wall and floor sealers | Books on adobe buildings | Books on adobe construction | adobe buildings in Alamos, Mexico


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