Antique Parlor Stoves Still Burning

Century-old antique parlor stoves still serve a purpose

| February 2000

  • This Floral Oak stove, made in Kansas City roughly 100 years ago, shows the gleam of stove black
    This Floral Oak stove, made in Kansas City roughly 100 years ago, shows the gleam of stove black. "If you paint your stove, it doesn't show the relief," said Glenn Litke. "It dulls the engraving, and the way the detail reflects light."
  • Glenn Litke, atop what he estimates is a two-year supply of firewood.
    Glenn Litke, atop what he estimates is a two-year supply of firewood.
  • This Radiant Home base burner was made by the Germer Stove Co., Erie, Pa.
    This Radiant Home base burner was made by the Germer Stove Co., Erie, Pa. Unlike parlor stoves, the base burner was designed to burn a special type of coal. This stove would have been used in an affluent, elite household, Glenn said. Restoration will include replacing 72 pieces of mice that make up "windows" in the stove's eight doors.
  • The Radiant Home stove was missing just one piece, a corner broken off an existing piece. Glenn carved a mold for a new casting to replace the missing material.
    The Radiant Home stove was missing just one piece, a corner broken off an existing piece. Glenn carved a mold for a new casting to replace the missing material.
  • The detail shown above depicts a small boy in an art motif, complete with a painter's palette
    The detail shown above depicts a small boy in an art motif, complete with a painter's palette. The stove itself is an example of artistry: "Every bit of that was hand carved in wood before that stove existed," Glenn said. The stove also features three rare tiles with painted profiles (top left). "There's people who collect just those tiles," Glenn said.
  • This stove heats the farm shop
    This stove heats the farm shop. Glenn burns Osage Orange (hedge) in his stoves. Hedge generates a lot of sparks, but there's little real danger, he said, so long as practical precautions are followed.
  • This kitchen stove is a departure from the parlor stoves Glenn typically takes on.
    This kitchen stove is a departure from the parlor stoves Glenn typically takes on.
  • Three of Glenn's restored stoves, complete with the bright shine of nickel plating
    Three of Glenn's restored stoves, complete with the bright shine of nickel plating. A hundred years ago, any one of these stoves might have been the sole source of heat in a small house without insulation or storm windows.
  • An 1896 advertisement for Enameline stove black.
    An 1896 advertisement for Enameline stove black.

  • This Floral Oak stove, made in Kansas City roughly 100 years ago, shows the gleam of stove black
  • Glenn Litke, atop what he estimates is a two-year supply of firewood.
  • This Radiant Home base burner was made by the Germer Stove Co., Erie, Pa.
  • The Radiant Home stove was missing just one piece, a corner broken off an existing piece. Glenn carved a mold for a new casting to replace the missing material.
  • The detail shown above depicts a small boy in an art motif, complete with a painter's palette
  • This stove heats the farm shop
  • This kitchen stove is a departure from the parlor stoves Glenn typically takes on.
  • Three of Glenn's restored stoves, complete with the bright shine of nickel plating
  • An 1896 advertisement for Enameline stove black.

Most farm collectibles are carefully restored, displayed at an occasional show or parade, then taken to the barn where they're kept under tarps. But the relics Glen Litke restores perform the same vital function today as they did when they were built 100 years ago: Generating heat. 

Glen salvages and completely restores antique parlor stoves. At least four are used to heat his family's home in rural Marion County, Kan., a converted loft in a granary, and the farm shop.

"We heat the entire house with wood," he said.

Restore a steel-wheeled tractor, and you have a strong sense of the challenges of fanning 80 years ago. Use a 100-year-old antique parlor stove as your primary heat source, and you are immersed in the rhythms of life in a different era.



"It's kind of like the way Grandpa lived," Glen said. "You have to use a match, paper and kindling to start a fire."

Starting the fire is just the first step.



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