After more than a year of intense planning and delays my most recent Finnish fireplace installation proved to be well worth the wait. Our paths first crossed with Nancy Pearson in 1982 when Albie was installing a basic contraflow heater a couple towns away from where Nancy and her husband had plans to build their new timberframe home. Albie was working hand in hand with a long time contractor turned naturalist/wildlife educator, Ted Strickroth. As the story was told to me recently, Nancy had a keen interest in alternative/high efficiency sources of energy. In her quest to become more and more educated she had run across masonry heaters and Albie’s name. Quite serendipitously, when Nancy finally caught up with us she learned that Albie was working right around the corner. That meeting led to a massive 2-heater workshop led by Heikki Hyytiainen and Albie at Nancy’s home shortly thereafter. Over the course of my time more recently with Nancy, I heard varying accounts of the 20 person 1982 heater workshop extravaganza. She has very positive recollections where as Albie’s account detailed monsoon conditions with rain and more rain, flooding, floating tents and 12 hour + days lasting nearly two weeks. In the end their stories of the experience re-converge with the completion of 2 magnificent back-to-back masonry heaters. In her living room resides a traditional organic field stone Finnish contraflow style masonry heater. To its rear, facing the dining table is a bake oven/Finnish contraflow masonry heater variation, built of brick with an elegant relief revealing a meticulously laid firebrick arch flanking a cast iron oven door.
Some 26 years later the room is alive, with more plants than I can count thriving in the 70 degree climate. Nancy is fastidious about making sure that her hand made window quilts, now almost as old as the heaters, only cover the windows in the evening.
The environment is as homey as anything I could wish to encounter. We arrived on a Monday evening. Our path that day started with 16″ of snow in Maine. I left with the trailer and truck fully loaded, barrelling and slipping down the road, a little uncertain as to whether I had made the right decision to leave amidst the post blizzard chaos. The Maine roads proved to be the worst of the trip. New Hampshire revealed clearer pavement and Massachusetts brought me back to the world of fast cars and loose driving habits. I rendezvoused with Andrew Giroux of Giroux Masonry and his helper Ethan in New London, CT where we had reservations to take the Cross Island ferry to Orient Point, NY. I had worked with Andrew and crew several other times and regarded him as the best of the best when working away from home. Long days don’t scare him and his attention to detail while being highly productive is second to none. A fourth Mason was enroute from Pennsylvania, due to meet us in Southold, NY at Nancy’s home.