What the Helen of Troy is This?

IMG_1652, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

We’ve looked at coal doors before but I don’t think that’s what this is. This is really small. You can see it’s the width is the size of one brick. Way too small for a shovel. It’s on the outside of a chimney. But it can’t be too clean out a chimney, right? Again because of the size plus it seem like it’d be easier from the inside. Any guesses?

13 Comment

  • I believe it’s an ash bin door as you stated. The other side is a fireplace and you open that to remove ashes.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    But since the door is so small isn’t easier to just clean the ash from the inside?

  • Many, if not most, old wood-burning fireplaces have a grate in the base to allow air flow under the fire, leading to a better-burning, hotter fire. Ash will drop down in this area and eventually clog it unless it is cleaned out. THat’s probably what this outside ash bin door is intended for

  • Think of it as the door to a sort of in-fireplace ash bin.

    Also, it would really suck to try to clean out a fireplace from inside. You’d get ash all over everything in your house. Besides, you’ll eventually want the ash outside anyway for disposal or composting.

  • CAHBF is right -this is an exterior ash bin. Had one growing up in a NJ suburb rambler. Don’t ever remember actually using it, which perhaps is why they don’t build them anymore.

  • You just use a small shovel. And you typically only need to clean the ashes out of this area once in a while.

  • I can’t seem to find any proof of this, but I was always under the impression that it was a coal chute. In the days before natural gas lines, and electric heaters, the coal truck would drive up and shovel coal into the chute. The coal would slide down into the basement, where it would be used to heat the furnace in the winter.

  • We had an ash door growing up. It was in the cellar, directly below the living room fireplace. Just had to dump it out periodically, and it was neater to do it downstairs than dust up the living room with ashes & soot.

  • Same with our family’s old house as described by Florista

  • My house growing up had one, too, but these aren’t only used in older houses. The house I lived in was built in 1987.

  • Yup. The house I grew up in was built in ’85. There’s a door just like this right outside of the fireplace. Most fireplace utensil sets include a small shovel for cleaning out ashes. These are a better alternative to stirring the dust up from inside, and trekking dirt all over the living room.

  • ash bin door. ever shoveled ash? it’s like the dust from joint compound — it gets in the air and everywhere. better to shovel it outside.

  • my grandma’s old house had a compartment that size that was higher up and next to her side door. it was for the milkman to drop off milk, in the days when milkmen existed. i know that’s likely not what this picture is, but i felt like sharing.

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