Among the many wonderful features of our Inn—and something guests are often curious about—are the fireplaces you’ll see in the main areas and bedrooms. They’re known as Rumsford fireplaces, and like so much else in a home that was built centuries ago, there is a story behind them.
In colonial America, fireplaces were drafty, smoky and not all that efficient at generating heat, especially if you were not sitting right next to them. So in the mid-1700’s a man by the name of Count Rumsford decided to do something about that, by changing the design of the fireplace.
At the time, most fireplaces had backs that were built to slope forward, helping send smoke up the chimney. Problem was, this sent heat up the chimney too. Instead, Rumsford designed a fireplace with a wide, high opening, a shallow firebox and widely-splayed jambs—or sides. And most importantly, he gave the structure a straighter back and rounded the front wall, forming a nozzle–like shape, to force smoke up the damper, wasting less heat in the process.
In no time, Rumsford fireplaces became regular fixtures in many homes, including at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and here at the Inn. Over the years, we’ve updated the exteriors of the fireplace, but the classic interior design remains the same.
And though you may not be able to see what makes these fireplaces so wonderful, every time you cozy up next to one, you’ll feel it.