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Sitting by the Fireside

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While Washington’s recent impactful snowfall prompted my fellow blogger Kristi to focus on outdoor fun and frolic in her post last week, my thoughts turned to indoor comforts of home and hearth. As the years go by, I am now content, even happy until the lights start to flicker, to watch the snow fall and blow and accumulate from inside through the living room picture window. The missing element in my snow observation station is a fireplace with a bed of glowing coals and a few sticks of firewood ablaze. I lit into the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog for fireside scenes to spark my imagination. A sampling of my findings follow:

People seated in wicker chairs in front to large stone fireplace, Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina.
Grove Park Inn Fireplace, Asheville, NC. Photo copyrighted by Herbert W. Pelton, 1913.

Photograph shows mezzo-soprano opera singer Margaret Matzenauer (Margarete Matzenauer or Margarethe Matzenaur) (1881-1963) seated by fireplace. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2015)
Matzenauer. Photograph by Bain News Service, undated.

On the left above, rocking-chaired guests a century ago have arrayed themselves around the huge stone fireplace in Asheville’s Grove Park Inn. Prior to seeing this photographic documentation, I’d not thought of fireside gatherings as a large group activity — outdoor bonfires and campfires, sure; but not indoors! On the right, mezzo-soprano Margaret Matzenauer evidently must be reading a compilation of glowing reviews of her operatic performances.

Below, nature writer and influential naturalist John Burroughs cat-naps, or “meditates” rather, beside the fireplace in his Hudson River Valley cabin Slabsides.

John Burroughs, full-length portrait, seated in rocking chair, facing left, in front of fireplace in log cabin with twig furniture.
Noon Meditations at Slabsides. Photo copyrighted by Kellogg & Innes, 1901.

Actress Maud Le Roy is pictured below in a pensive moment (or “playing” pensive perhaps?) in this 1915 copyright deposit photograph by the Gerhard Sisters of St. Louis.

Full lgth., seated, facing left; in front of fireplace.
Maud Le Roy. Photo copyrighted by Gerhard Sisters, March 17, 1915.

Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a series of radio broadcasts, called “Fireside Chats,” throughout his presidency, that afforded him the opportunity to speak directly to Americans. Spanning from the midst of the Great Depression through near the end of World War II, FDR employed the chats to speak less formally about policies and federal programs as well as to calm the fears and help bolster the citizenry during tumultuous years of economic travail and war. The intimacy of the lone president speaking from the White House was preserved through keeping the assembled radio and film crews, shown in the two photos below the seated President Roosevelt, “quiet on the set.”

FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] FIRESIDE CHAT
FDR Fireside Chat, The White House. Photograph by Harris & Ewing, September 6, 1936.

Photo probably taken for FDR's 1939 fireside chat on the invasion of Poland
Press with Radio Equipment at White House. Photograph by Harris & Ewing, 1938 or 1939.

Photo probably taken for FDR's 1939 fireside chat on the invasion of Poland.
Press with Film Equipment at White House. Photograph by Harris & Ewing, 1938 or 1939.

In closing, for readers who enjoy tests of their powers of observation and visual recall: How many fires are seen burning within the hearths pictured in the post? Might a more accurate title be “Sitting by the Fireplace”?

Learn More

  • View more than 600 fireplaces from grand to modest in southern houses within the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South. And, if fireplaces be your passion, revel in close to 4000 images in the Historic American Buildings Survey.
  • The Thesaurus of Graphic Materials (TGM) can be helpful if your focus is on architectural elements associated with fireplaces. Notice, for example, the TGM entry for the index term “Fireplaces” contains a list of “Related Terms” such as “Andirons,” “Chimneys,” and “Mantels.” In addition to navigating the hierarchy of terms, TGM includes links to pictures assigned the term during cataloging.
  • Enjoy Kristi’s post of last week, “Snow Fun: Sledding, Snowball Fights and More,” in case you missed it — or if you want to revisit it for one more sled run!

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