We received a question from Jean Fetters Connor who wanted to know if the Mansion was heated with steam from the Zinc plant. It’s a little more info than just the steam heat.
The first use of steam and hot water heating came to the U.S. in the 1840’s, but it was used solely for industrial use in factories like the huge textile mills in Massachusetts.
By the 1870’s companies were toying with steam heat for private homes, but it came with great controversy and was not widely used. When Edward Hegeler’s home was finished in 1876, his zinc works were well-established, and he was able to use the steam, leftover from the smelting furnaces, to partially heat and humidify the home. A central pipe ran from the plant to the basement on the north side, and from there it was dispersed to vents throughout the house via a series of smaller pipes.
Unfortunately, by the time the steam reached the Mansion, it was not as warm as was hoped, and so the family continued to use the radiators and fireplaces. The fireplaces are smaller than seen in some Victorian mansions because they were gas-ignited, coal-burning fireplaces. Wider, deeper fireplaces were designed for burning wood.
In addition, the Mansion has pocket shutters, pocket doors, and once had heavy curtains on rods to help keep heat within rooms.
While the Mansion is not the first example of steam heat in a private home, it is certainly one of the earliest.
One more thing worth noting: Victorian America believed, according to home keeping books of the time, that the healthiest temperature for the home should be between 55 and 60 degrees and not much warmer. WOW.
If you want to do more research check out the book below:
Home Fires – How Americans Kept Warm in the 19th Century
by Sean Patrick Adams
“Home heating networks during the Industrial Revolution helped create the modern dependence on fossil fuel energy in America.
From Johns Hopkins University Press. Available at your bookseller of choice.