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Ventilation Of Houses








Pure air, and enough of it, is the cheapest blessing one can enjoy; and to deny one's self so indispensable an element of good health, is little short of criminal neglect, or the sheerest folly. Yet thousands who build at much needless expense, for the protection of their health and that of their families, as they allege, and no doubt suppose, by neglecting the simplest of all contrivances, in the work of ventilation, invite disease and infirmity, from the very pains they so unwittingly take to ward off such afflictions.

A man, be he farmer or of other profession, finding himself prosperous in life, sets about the very sensible business of building a house for his own accommodation. Looking back, perhaps, to the days of his boyhood, in a severe climate, he remembers the not very highly-finished tenement of his father, and the wide, open fireplace which, with its well piled logs, was scarcely able to warm the large living-room, where the family were wont to huddle in winter. He possibly remembers, with shivering sympathy, the sprinkling of snow which he was accustomed to find upon his bed as he awaked in the morning, that had found its way through the frail casing of his chamber window—but in the midst of all which he grew up with a vigorous constitution, a strong arm, and a determined spirit. He is resolved that his children shall encounter no such hardships, and that himself and his excellent helpmate shall suffer no such inconvenience as his own parents had done, who now perhaps, are enjoying a strong and serene old age, in their old-fashioned, yet to them not uncomfortable tenement. He therefore determines to have a snug, close house, where the cold cannot penetrate. He employs all his ingenuity to make every joint an air-tight fit; the doors must swing to an air-tight joint; the windows set into air-tight frames; and to perfect the catalogue of his comforts, an air-tight stove is introduced into every occupied room which, perchance, if he can afford it, are further warmed and poisoned by the heated flues of an air-tight furnace in his air-tight cellar. In short, it is an air-tight concern throughout. His family breathe an 58 air-tight atmosphere; they eat their food cooked in an air-tight kitchen witch, of the latest premium pattern; and thus they start, father, mother, children, all on the high road—if persisted in—to a galloping consumption, which sooner or later conducts them to an air-tight dwelling, not soon to be changed. If such melancholy catastrophe be avoided, colds, catarrhs, headaches, and all sorts of bodily afflictions shortly make their appearance, and they wonder what is the matter! They live so snug! their house is so warm! they sleep so comfortable! how can it be? True, in the morning the air of their sleeping-rooms feels close, but then if a window is opened it will chill the rooms, and that will give them colds. What can be the matter? The poor creatures never dream that they have been breathing, for hour after hour, decomposed air, charged with poisonous gases, which cannot escape through the tight walls, or over the tight windows, or through the tight stoves; and thus they keep on in the sure course to infirmity, disease, and premature death—all for the want of a little ventilation! Better indeed, that instead of all this painstaking, a pane were knocked out of every window, or a panel out of every door in the house.

We are not disposed to talk about cellar furnaces for heating a farmer's house. They have little to do in the farmer's inventory of goods at all, unless it be to give warmth to the hall—and even then a snug box stove, with its pipe passing into the nearest chimney is, in most cases, the better appendage. Fuel is usually abundant with the farmer; and where so, its 59 benefits are much better dispensed in open stoves or fireplaces, than in heating furnaces or air-tights.

We have slightly discussed this subject of firing in the farm house, in a previous page, but while in the vein, must crave another word. A farmer's house should look hospitable as well as be hospitable, both outside and in; and the broadest, most cheerful look of hospitality within doors, in cold weather, is an open fire in the chimney fireplace, with the blazing wood upon it. There is no mistake about it. It thaws you out, if cold; it stirs you up, if drooping; and is the welcome, winning introduction to the good cheer that is to follow.

A short time ago we went to pay a former town friend a visit. He had removed out to a snug little farm, where he could indulge his agricultural and horticultural tastes, yet still attend to his town engagements, and enjoy the quietude of the country. We rang the door bell. A servant admitted us; and leaving overcoat and hat in the hall, we entered a lone room, with an air-tight stove, looking as black and solemn as a Turkish eunuch upon us, and giving out about the same degree of genial warmth as the said eunuch would have expressed had he been there—an emasculated warming machine truly! On the floor was a Wilton carpet, too fine to stand on; around the room were mahogany sofas and mahogany chairs, all too fine to sit on—at all events to rest one upon if he were fatigued. The blessed light of day was shut out by crimson and white curtains, held up by gilded arrows; and upon the mantle piece, and on the center 60 and side tables were all sorts of gimcracks, costly and worthless. In short, there was no comfort about the whole concern. Hearing our friend coming up from his dining-room below, where too, was his cellar kitchen—that most abominable of all appendages to a farm house, or to any other country house, for that matter—we buttoned our coat up close and high, thrust our hands into our pockets, and walked the room, as he entered. Glad to see you—glad to see you, my friend! said he, in great joy; but dear me, why so buttoned up, as if you were going? What's the matter? My good sir, we replied, you asked us to come over and see you, 'a plain farmer,' and 'take a quiet family dinner with you.' We have done so; and here find you with all your town nonsense about you. No fire to warm by; no seat to rest in; no nothing like a farm or farmer about you; and it only needs your charming better half, whom we always admired, when she lived in town, to take down her enameled harp, and play

'In fairy bowers by moonlight hours,'

to convince one that instead of ruralizing in the country, you had gone a peg higher in town residence! No, no, we'll go down to farmer Jocelyn's, our old schoolfellow, and take a dinner of bacon and cabbage with him. If he does occupy a one-story house, he lives up in sunshine, has an open fireplace, with a blazing wood fire on a chilly day, and his 'latch string is always out.'

Our friend was petrified—astonished! We meant 61 to go it rather strong upon him, but still kept a frank, good-humored face, that showed him no malice. He began to think he was not exactly in character, and essayed to explain. We listened to his story. His good wife came in, and all together, we had a long talk of their family and farming arrangements; how they had furnished their house; and how they proposed to live; but wound up with a sad story, that their good farming neighbors didn't call on them the second time—kind, civil people they appeared, too—and while they were in, acted as though afraid to sit down, and afraid to stand up;—in short, they were dreadfully embarrassed; for why, our friends couldn't tell, but now began to understand it. Well, my good friends, said we, you have altogether mistaken country life in the outset. To live on a farm, it is neither necessary to be vulgar, nor clownish, nor to affect ignorance. Simplicity is all you require, in manners, and equal simplicity in your furniture and appointments. Now just turn all this nonsense in furniture and room dressing out of doors, and let some of your town friends have it. Get some simple, comfortable, cottage furniture, much better for all purposes, than this, and you will settle down into quiet, natural country life before you are aware of it, and all will go 'merry as a marriage bell' with you, in a little time—for they both loved the country, and were truly excellent people. We continued, I came to spend the day and the night, and I will stay; and this evening we'll go down to your neighbor Jocelyn's; and you, Mrs. N——, shall go with us; and we will see how quietly and 62 comfortably he and his family take the world in a farmer's way.

We did go; not in carriage and livery, but walked the pleasant half mile that lay between them; the exercise of which gave us all activity and good spirits. Jocelyn was right glad to see us, and Patty, his staid and sober wife, with whom we had romped many an innocent hour in our childhood days, was quite as glad as he. But they looked a little surprised that such great folks as their new neighbors, should drop in so unceremoniously, and into their common keeping room, too, to chat away an evening. However, the embarrassment soon wore off. We talked of farming; we talked of the late elections; we talked of the fruit trees and the strawberry beds; and Mrs. Jocelyn, who was a pattern of good housekeeping, told Mrs. N—— how she made her apple jellies, and her currant tarts, and cream cheeses; and before we left they had exchanged ever so many engagements,—Mrs. Patty to learn her new friend to do half a dozen nice little matters of household pickling and preserving; while she, in turn, was to teach Nancy and Fanny, Patty's two rosy-cheeked daughters, almost as pretty as their mother was at their own age, to knit a bead bag and work a fancy chair seat! And then we had apples and nuts, all of the very best—for Jocelyn was a rare hand at grafting and managing his fruit trees, and knew the best apples all over the country. We had, indeed, a capital time! To cut the story short, the next spring our friend sent his fancy furniture to auction, and provided his house with simple cottage furnishings, at 63 less than half the cost of the other; which both he and his wife afterward declared was infinitely better, for all house-keeping purposes. He also threw a neat wing on to the cottage, for an upper kitchen and its offices, and they now live like sensible country folks; and with their healthy, frolicksome children, are worth the envy of all the dyspeptic, town-fed people in existence.

A long digression, truly; but so true a story, and one so apt to our subject can not well be omitted. But what has all this to do with ventilation? We'll tell you. Jocelyn's house was ventilated as it should be;—for he was a methodical, thoughtful man, who planned and built his house himself—not the mechanical work, but directed it throughout, and saw that it was faithfully done; and that put us in mind of the story.

To be perfect in its ventilation, every room in the house, even to the closets, should be so arranged that a current of air may pass through, to keep it pure and dry. In living rooms, fresh air in sufficient quantity may usually be admitted through the doors. In sleeping rooms and closets, when doors may not be left open, one or more of the lower panels of the door may be filled by a rolling blind, opening more or less, at pleasure; or a square or oblong opening for that purpose, may be left in the base board, at the floor, and covered by a wire netting. And in all rooms, living apartments, as well as these, an opening of at least sixty-four square inches should be made in the wall, near the ceiling, and leading into an air flue, to pass into the garret. Such opening may be filled by a 64 rolling blind, or wire screen, as below, and closed or kept open, at pleasure. Some builders prefer an air register to be placed in the chimney, over the fireplace or stove, near the ceiling; but the liability to annoyance, by smoke escaping through it into the room, if not thoroughly done, is an objection to this latter method, and the other may be made, in its construction, rather ornamental than otherwise, in appearance. All such details as these should be planned when the building is commenced, so that the several flues may be provided as the building proceeds. In a stone or brick house, a small space may be left in the walls, against which these air registers may be required; and for inner rooms, or closets, they may pass off into the openings of the partitions, and so up into the garret; from which apertures of escape may be left, or made at the gables, under the roof, or by a blind in a window.

For the admission of air to the first floor of the house, a special opening through the walls, for that purpose, can hardly be necessary; as the doors leading outside are usually opened often enough for such object. One of the best ventilated houses we have ever seen, is that owned and occupied by Samuel Cloon, Esq., of Cincinnati. It is situated on his farm, three miles out of the city, and in its fine architectural appearance and finished appointments, as a rural residence and first-class farm house, is not often excelled. Every closet is ventilated through rolling blinds in the door panels; and foul air, either admitted or created within them, is passed off at once by flues near the ceiling overhead, passing into conductors leading off through the garret.

Where chambers are carried into the roof of a house, to any extent, they are sometimes incommoded by the summer heat which penetrates them, conducted by the chamber ceiling overhead. This heat can best be obviated by inserting a small window at each opposite peak of the garret, by which the outside air can circulate through, above the chambers, and so pass off the heated air, which will continually ascend. All this is a simple matter, for which any builder can provide, without particular expense or trouble.





Next: Interior Accommodation Of Houses

Previous: The Construction Of Cellars



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