Today, the parlor stoves are enjoying a comeback in many homes as an alternative or secondary-heating source.
Popular as a heating source in one of the more formal rooms of the 19th century home, parlor stoves were common from the 1840’s until the early decades of the 20th century. Usually made of cast iron, the parlor stove tended to be more compact than the larger stoves used in the kitchen, and were more formal in design that the casual pot bellied stove that was found in simpler homes.
The primary function of the parlor stoves was to emit a comfortable amount of heat, keeping the room warm and inviting for family members and guests.
The parlor stoves are designed to function as a wood burning stove. Keeping in mind that the parlor was intended to be a comfortable but formal room for entertaining guests, the size of the stove was scaled down from the larger and more utilitarian wood burning stoves found in kitchens. At the same time, the parlor stoves was often designed with more pleasing lines, and sometimes included scrollwork or other ornamentation in the cast iron components.
The presence of a parlor stove often made the room one of the two main gathering points within the home during the winter months. Families would gather in the parlor during the daytime to enjoy conversation, reading, or similar activities. In the evenings, parlor stoves helped to keep the room inviting as the family enjoyed coffee or hot chocolate after dinner.
An antique parlor stove is usually small enough to be installed in a standard fireplace area, with one end of the stove positioned in the chimney proper and the main body extending outward on the hearth. Replica editions of the older parlor stoves have also become popular and are manufactured by a number of companies today. In the event that the main heating system in the home fails, the parlor stoves is able to comfortably heat the den as long as firewood is available.