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Huge hearth planned for Hampton museum

Submitted | Pine Creek Journal
This is the fireplace in the kitchen of the main 'Castle' building at Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario, NY ( c. 1724), which is similar to one the group hopes to build.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Master bricklayer Andy Spiker of Hampton builds fireplaces for living, but none like the hearth set to warm guests at the Depreciation Lands Museum.

“Honestly, I've never built one this big,” Spiker said about the 12-by-4-foot fireplace slated for construction this spring in the museum's annex building.

“No work has taken place yet,” Spiker said. “I'm probably going to end up donating some of my time.”

Got any field stones lying around your homestead? Bags of mortar mix? Used bricks?

The Depreciation Lands Museum currently seeks such materials — and donations of cash — to build the huge hearth, which will incorporate a bake oven and hand-crafted crane for cooking pots of food, early American style.

Construction of the hearth will cap efforts to reincarnate the museum's annex building as an 18th century-style tavern.

Spiker plans to incorporate an early American-style bake oven in the forthcoming fireplace.

“We're trying to keep the cost down, but we've got to build it right, too,” Spiker said. “When it's done, it's going to be beautiful.”

Museum members hope the hearth ultimately attracts people seeking locations to rent for private parties and special events.

“When this is done, that tavern is going to be a show place,” said silversmith David Hughes of Richland, a member of the board of directors of the Depreciation Lands Museum.

Robbie Seibert, the museum's program director, looks forward to using the fireplace to teach people about 18th century life on the Western Pennsylvania frontier.

“I'm looking toward the fireplace as being a magnet to bring people into the museum,” Seibert said. “We're going to be able to do cooking classes. We're going to be able to have dinners. “

Back in the 1700s, such a hearth “was the center of the home,” Seibert said. “It was used to light the home, warm the home and provide a means for cooking food.”

Dan Connolly, president of the Depreciation Lands Museum Association, tapped Spiker, his son-in-law, to help create and construct the forthcoming fireplace with help from museum volunteers and donations of cash and materials.

“We've been looking at a lot of 250-year-old fireplaces,” Connolly said. “We're looking at different ways that they're built.

“Part of the dilemma we're having is that different materials are used today,” Connolly said. “For instance, we really didn't want to do the firebox with fire brick — because it looks not quite right, and of course, they (Early American colonists) didn't use fire brick — but building codes might force us to do it.”

Connolly hopes to break ground for the hearth's foundation in May and complete the fireplace within weeks.

“We're starting to round up materials,” Connolly said.

Donations of cash for the fireplace project, and checks payable to the Depreciation Lands Museum, can be mailed to the museum at 4743 S. Pioneer Road, Allison Park, PA 15101.

For information about how to donate materials for the fireplace project, call 412-486-0563.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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