These early 19th century fire screens appear in all of the historic photos of the dining room. The little boy is holding a fish and the little girl is holding a poodle.
These early 19th-century fire screens appear in all of the historic photos of the dining room. The little boy is holding a fish and the little girl is holding a poodle.

Snow has a tendency to arrive early and stay late up on the shores of Lake Champlain, leading museum co-founders Stephen and Sarah Pell to augment the Pavilion’s many fireplaces with radiators during the first restoration in 1909. A maintenance record from 1937 shows that they even considered modifying the Pavilion for proper central heating, ultimately choosing not to do so for a residence that would only be occupied from May to November. Later, Stephen and Sarah’s son, and longtime museum director, John H. G. Pell converted the house to strictly summer use by removing the radiators. Keeping cool was a bigger concern from June to August, and the fireplaces were enough to handle the chill on the rare cool night.

Maintenance records from the archives reveal a list from the fall of 1937 accompanied by a note that shows the Pells considered converting the house for year-round occupation.
Maintenance records from the archives reveal a list from the fall of 1937 accompanied by a note that shows the Pells considered converting the house for year-round occupation.
No fire screens here! Space heaters allow the Pavilion restoration team to keep working now that snow is on the ground.
No fire screens here! Space heaters allow the Pavilion restoration team to keep working now that snow is on the ground.

However, even if the weather outside is frightful and the fire quite delightful, regulating warmth from a log fire can be challenging. In the centuries before radiant heat was invented, our ancestors developed different strategies for comfort beside the fire. One option is to use a fire screen like those in the Pavilion collection at Fort Ticonderoga. These free-standing or adjustable panels on stands deflect some of the heat away from someone sitting near the fire. Fire screens come in many shapes and sizes, from those large enough to cover the hearth when cold to a small panel of embroidery on a pole that could be adjusted to protect the face.

Stay tuned here and on Fort Ticonderoga’s Facebook page for updates on the restoration of the Pavilion, new discoveries, and more from Fort Ticonderoga every week.