Renovated fireplace, chimney warm Fulton House in New Derry
Fred Milani has put the finishing touches on a three-year endeavor to install a fireplace and three-story chimney in the Derry Area Historical Society's Fulton House in New Derry.
When the society started planning to add the fireplace, historical society Vice President Pat Showalter said the masonry work was estimated at $16,000 to $18,000.
“The buildings are circa 1817, and the stone fireplace is in keeping with that era,” Showalter said. “They wouldn't have had bricks that much out in the countryside.”
Historical society board member Evelyn Ruffing, who is Milani's neighbor, let the retired mason know about the fireplace plans. Milani, originally from Italy, offered his services to the society free of charge.
“It was really a question of whether we could do it or not,” Showalter said. “Without Fred, we wouldn't have been able to do it. It would have been cost-prohibitive.”
Milani and assistant Dean Eade began to tackle the project in January 2012 with some volunteers from the society.
“The first year we started down at the bottom,” Milani said. “We went all the way, finished the first floor — stone, brick, oven, everything. And we put in the chimney brick straight through up to the roof, and we did the stone work up on the roof.”
The historical society was able to save some costs on materials by using donated bricks and antique stone from a freestanding fire box on the property of society members Mike and Becky Laich on Ruby Street in Derry.
While carefully disassembling the firebox, volunteers noticed a stone with 1885 etched into its face. That stone now rests just above the mantel in the Fulton House fireplace.
After the first phase of the project, the society had a functioning fireplace that conformed to modern fire safety codes. The fireplace is used during meetings and to heat the building in the winter.
“That's a real fireplace,” Milani said. “You could burn in it all month long, two months long. You wouldn't have to worry about it.”
In the following year, Milani added a stone veneer to the chimney on the second floor. For historical accuracy, the chimney runs inside the house to allow heat radiating from it to warm the upper floors.
Now in the third year of the project, the chimney in the attic has its stone veneer.
“It took us three years, but we didn't work steady,” Milani explained. “We did a little bit every year. If you say it took three years, people will say, ‘What were they doing? Sleeping?' ”
Ruffing has plans for the attic space now used for storage.
“This was the bedroom of the Fulton family originally, in 1817,” she said. “I want this junk out of here, and then the walls should be white and cleaned up and the floor finished. And just a bed up here ... a rope bed, just to show what it was like for them.”
The Fulton House, at 357 Pittsburgh St., is closed to visitors during winter, except by appointment, and reopens on May 1. The historical society board of directors meets there on the third Monday of each month. The meetings are open to the public.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or firstname.lastname@example.org.