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."

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.