Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 13, 2013

Letter to the editor - Thursday, 14, 2013

Razed home housed marvelous chimney

The 1880-1900 era Victorian frame house recently demolished on East Taylor Street was a two-story block with an attic over the top. The house itself was not unique to this area. It was much like the William McReynolds house of three stories with an attic room over the top that used to stand south of the Albright Cemetery.

But the Taylor Street house had an unfinished third-floor attic with two levels of windows. Within this attic was enclosed a rather unique and unanticipated architectural element. A rectangular, 2-by-3-foot brick chimney rose up through the house on the north-south axis. But when it went up into the attic, it made a 90 degree turn and took an east-west alignment; it continued this way on up through the slate roof.

It was an amazing feat of design, concept and construction on the part of some long ago and forgotten brickmason, who obviously possessed superior abilities in his craft. The way he turned that chimney was an engineering marvel, technical and yet simple. It was as though a giant hand had reached out and took hold of the chimney, squeezed it and then gave it a quarter turn.

In early home construction, a technique called “corbelling” was sometimes employed in building chimneys. The old Henry Obermeyer farmhouse northeast of Kokomo was a two-story-with-attic house which had two chimneys, both of which went up through the house in one spot, and when they got to the attic they were moved at least a foot off center and at an angle just so they would go up through the roof in a spot more aesthetically pleasing to the design.

But the Taylor Street house chimney was not corbelled, it was twisted, and for the sole reason that the builders wanted its rectangularity to turn from one direction to another when it came out of the roof. The design would look better that way!

It’s too bad that section of chimney could not have been saved and put on display out at the Seiberling Mansion Museum. It would certainly have been a conversation piece, maybe even another first in the City of Firsts. The next best thing would be if a current local brickmason could volunteer to try and build a replica of that section of chimney for display. People would be amazed at how it would look, and an early vision of a Kokomo bricklayer could be appreciated.

It’s hard to visualize or imagine how that chimney was constructed. It looked like it could have been the work of some of the Seiberling Mansion stonemasons, although they often showed up too drunk to work out there. The brickmason or masons who planned and accomplished such an architectural masterpiece like they did in that Taylor Street house would have had to have been both sober and focused. But we will never know whom he or they were.

Who would have known such a chimney was hidden away in the attic of that old house? It makes one wonder, what other treasures remain to be discovered in the City of Firsts?

Jeff Hatton, Greentown