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History of the Fireplace

The control and harnessing of fire is one of the biggest successes humans have ever had. If any of these early humans were to travel in time to the current day and see a modern fireplace, they would probably be shocked and frightened to see us living right alongside fire in our homes. The fireplace has undergone some crazy transformations since humans harnessed fire. Here’s a brief overview of those transitions.

500 BC and before

Ancient fireplace design was simple- fire pits were placed in the middle of huts, and holes were built into roofs to release smoke. Though this design ventilated out some of the smoke from the fire, much of the smoke ended up trapped in the home, causing lung damage to the people who lived there. Even with its ventilation problems, this type of fire was popular and could be found in ancient homes from Mesopotamia to northern Europe.

43 AD

Fast forward to Roman times, flues were added to fires in order to pipe smoke outdoors. In some buildings, such as public bathhouses, hypocaust systems (sort of an ancient form of an HVAC system) were used to distribute heat. Tunnel systems under the floors of buildings allowed heat to travel throughout the whole building, and vents led smoke outside.


With two-story houses gaining popularity, the standard fire pit in the middle of the home would no longer work. Fire pits were replaced with fireplaces in much of Europe. They used chimneys to create a draft and move smoke out of the building. People also began to move the fire from the center of the room to the wall. With this new design, a fireplace could be placed on each floor of a building, allowing the warmth to be felt from nearly everywhere in the home.


Fireplace design changed very little for hundreds of years until a new invention came about: The fireplace grate. These elevated fires and allowed air to reach the firewood from underneath to more effectively fuel the fire.

Early 1700s

Timber scarcity in London led to more common use of coal to heat English homes. The toxic smoke from the coal meant elaborate chimney systems were required for ventilation. Coal smoke often clogged up chimneys, which could be extremely dangerous. With that, the career of the chimney sweep was born.

In contrast to the small, efficient fireplaces in England, early American colonial homes featured fireplaces large enough for people to walk into them. They had wide, deep hearths and little to no mantel.


The Franklin stove, invented by who else than Benjamin Franklin, was popularized. This was a freestanding cast iron stove that radiated a lot of heat and required less fuel than other heating systems at the time. It utilized an inverted siphon which allowed fumes to be drawn out of the chimney.


Fireplaces began to be treated as a potential object of beauty. Mantels were beautifully carved and more ornate than before. Many fireplaces were still large and wide. By the mid 19th century, stoves, and later the furnaces, also became popular. This turned the fireplace into an aesthetic option for a home, rather than just a heating necessity.


By this time, central heating became more popular and demand for fireplaces as a main source of heat went down. Fireplaces were used more as an architectural element than a necessary source of heat. With the introduction of President FDR’s Fireside Chats, the idea of enjoying the ambiance of a fireplace became more popular. People began to view the fireplace as a way to bring family and loved ones together to relax, rather than just a functional item.

In the mid 1900s, factory-built fireplaces were introduced. Their low cost and simple installation helped them grow in popularity very quickly.

Present Day

We’ve come quite a long way from having fire pits in the middle of our homes! The heating world now includes wood, gas, pellet and electric stoves and fireplaces, and fireplaces can be installed nearly anywhere in the home. Whether you’re looking for function or aesthetics, we can help you build the fireplace of your dreams. Click here to begin designing.


Store Address:

1622 N Division Street

Spokane, WA



Accent Fireplace & Spas, located in Spokane, Washington, is a leisure products company specializing  in fireplaces, spas and grills. 


Accent provides elegant, high quality products that help people relax, step away from work, come closer to friends and family and enjoy  life.

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