Our Charter Oak Parlor Stove

Royal Oak Stove

After we moved from the Central Valley of California to the Pacific Northwest, it took me three years to cool off. True story. My internal thermostat was all out of whack. I’m one of those people who’re always warm, so when I say it’s chilly, people in the immediate vicinity sneer, roll their eyes, and shrug deeper into their parkas.

A barrel stove.

Lately I’ve thought it would be nice to sit in front of a fireplace. Since we don’t have one and price estimates indicate we won’t be building one…my husband suggested a wood-burning stove. These are lovely devices. So we trundled on down to Portland and did some research. I love antique parlor stoves but some of the modern ones are pretty amazing too. Eventually we settled for an antique stove since we aren’t using it to heat the house. The cool thing is, once everything is in place, future occupants could swap it out for a modern stove and heat the entire structure.

I knew cast iron heating furnaces, stoves and ovens had been around for a long time, but I didn’t know the style we’re accustomed to seeing, have measured almost 300 years. Yep. The appearance has changed with the flavor of the times, but for the most part, not the working mechanism.

The finial.

When we bought our house there was a modern woodburning stove in place, but we got rid of it for reasons like safety and longevity. The former owners liked to burn, and burn, and burn some more. Pyro much? They had a penchant for immolating EVERYTHING and the dilapidated stove they left behind was a true fire hazard. Not to mention the hinky way the pipe funneled up through the middle of the house left some doubts about the legality of the set-up.

So we’ve been busy here at the old homestead. By “we” I mean my husband, since he does the labor and I watch. Our (this is the royal “our”), latest project has involved installation of the aforesaid wood-burning stove.

We opted for an antique parlor stove, and since we have a simple home, we looked for one that was not too over-the-top on detail. I love Victorian-era stoves. They’re covered with nickel-plated filagree and while smashing in appearance, would look absurd in our humble little house.

The parlor stove we acquired is in excellent condition. With a coat of stoveblack and some nickel polish, the old girl looks pretty darn near new. The interior is in remarkably good shape, which is great news. This stove has been in regular use over the decades but was never the only heat source and that reduces the instances of heat-fracturing, the stress of metal fatigue, and curtails the probability of future problems stemming from habitual overheating.

Mostly she just needed a good cleaning. It’s amazing what some serious scrubbing can do. Polishing the nickel-plated parts took a lot of work, so my husband is the hero for doing all the hard stuff. Again.

Before cleaning.

Our stove was manufactured by the Charter Oak Stove & Furnace Company which opened it’s doors in 1848. We have style #410 which is a smaller size stove (by comparison to some), and while being stylish, is simpler in design than earlier models. Charter Oak was born under the name of the Excelsior Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, Missouri. The parent company produced heating sources and munitions (especially during the Civil War), right up until 1949.

I’m very pleased. There are advantages to newer models, true, but this is not our only heating source for the house, so we can afford to be contrary. I like that we saved a snippet of history and gain a warmer downstairs as a bonus. The entire family will be able to enjoy sitting and reading in front of a lovely hot parlor stove for another generation.

Ladies – we should all be so fine at 100 years of age. I’ll post an update with fresh photos when she’s installed and operating.

Have you rescued any bits of history lately? When did you last curl up in front of the flames? What gets you toasty warm?

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  1. #1 by Natalie Hartford on February 2, 2012 - 8:26 am

    It’s beautiful Lesann! Wow. I love it and I love the historical feel of it. I can’t wait to see photos of it all shined up and in the room. I bet it’ll be smashing.
    We have a gorgeous “antique” looking propane stove in our living room that I warm up in front of every single day. At the camp, we have a basic wood burning stove and I love the wood heat. There’s something so romantic about a fireplace!!
    Enjoy!!

    • #2 by Leslie on February 5, 2012 - 10:49 am

      It really is a handsome little stove and I’m looking forward to getting it hooked up and toasting. I agree, there is something romantic about heaters. When I was younger my parents had an old Victorian house with radiant hot water heaters. I looooved draping my clothes over the radiator in the morning and getting dressed in toasty clothes.

  2. #3 by Amy Shojai, CABC on February 2, 2012 - 8:27 am

    When we lived in Eastern KY, the first weekend we moved in the gaslines froze. We were without water or heat for about 3 weeks and ended up installing a wood burning stove and doing the pioneer thing (heating snow on top of the stove, etc).

    Fell in love with the look of the antique stoves and actually found an old blacksmith shop that restores them. So we have a workable Peoria Oak fancy stove (about 5 feet tall with the ornate nickel plating froufrou) in our living room. But due to insurance/fire issues it’s not installed–but it would work.

    • #4 by Leslie on February 5, 2012 - 10:47 am

      Oh Amy, I’d have sat on the kitchen floor and cried. Three weeks? I’m all for being hardy and making do, but there are limits! The antique stoves are lovely but they don’t have all the safety features of the modern ones. We’re grandfathered in, where we live, because of the age of the stove – and the one we removed was a true fire hazard, but if I were going to use it on a regular basis I would opt for a modern one. Some of them are pretty amazing too, with the benefits of cleaner burning, safety functions, and more even heat distribution. I’ve seen your stove and drooled over those nickel-plated lovelies. I’m experiencing stove envy right now!

  3. #5 by Bridgette Booth on February 3, 2012 - 12:37 pm

    Love antique stoves but have never owned one. (I could build a fire in 50 degree weather, so I’m right with you on the cold thing, friend! Even built fires when we lived in Houston. HOUSTON! Yes. All the houses have fireplaces but no one ever uses them. Until me. Heh.)

    Can’t wait to see the stove all nice and pretty.

    • #6 by Leslie on February 5, 2012 - 10:43 am

      I’ve always loved the antique stoves. We had lunch in an old establishment recently that still has the original stove from the turn of the century. I’ve never seen a stove that huge – it was over eight feet tall! I had stove envy bad, except it wouldn’t begin to fit in our house. I totally get that why-does-our-house-have-a-fireplace-when-its-never-below-fifty-degrees thing. When we lived in hot climes we used to crank up the air conditioner so we could get chilly and then make a fire. That’s us…lame!

  4. #7 by Marion Spicher on February 4, 2012 - 7:22 pm

    Our second home taught us the value of a wood stove. During a bitter 1969 winter in Grand Coulee, WA, while I recovered in the hospital from the Hong Kong Flu, hubby cut down fruit trees for fire wood in the inefficient fireplace. Our 9 month old first baby also was ill but fared well with papa. When we recovered we installed a small real kitchen wood burning stove with a water bin on the side for heating water, and a small oven. We loved it. Great fun to cook breakfast over a crackling wood fire. In every house since then, we have had a wood burner in the living room … great security when electricity goes out.

    • #8 by Leslie on February 5, 2012 - 10:34 am

      Marion, your story really rang a bell for me. Since moving to the country, we rely on electricity for EVERYTHING…so when the power goes out, it gets chilly fast. It doesn’t happen often, but once is enough! I’m looking forward to knowing we don’t have to pack up and descend on the neighbors or relatives if the power goes wonky. Plus it just looks darn cool! My grandmother cooked on a wood stove when she was younger and said that once you got the hang, it was really nice. I love the way the old timey stoves look but I’m not sure about cooking over one every day.

  5. #9 by Elizabeth Twist on February 8, 2012 - 10:56 am

    Hi Lesann! Fellow Campaigner and horror writer here. I love your stove! I’ve got big plans to install a woodburning stove when we finally buy a house this year (fingers crossed). Your parlor stove is super fancy.

    • #10 by Leslie on February 8, 2012 - 4:45 pm

      Hi Elizabeth!

      Yay…another horror writer! I signed myself up in mystery, horror and paranormal romance because I bounce around genres a bit. I’ve just in the last year been exploring horror and found it to be tons of fun. I love the woodburning stove – can’t wait until it’s actually working. Some day, some day! Good luck on the house-buying (my fingers are crossed for you) and you’ll love, love, love a parlor stove of your own. Ours is actually pretty simple compared to some but I love it.

  6. #11 by Joseph Galarza on May 15, 2012 - 8:53 pm

    I have a parlor wood cooking stove BY Charteroak porceline outside cast iron inside very little rust if any, and a silver cup on top,handle not operative but want to fix , I love this stove, porceline still brite and looks new, can anyone tell me about this stove?

    • #12 by Leslie on May 17, 2012 - 9:52 am

      Hi Joseph-

      I wish I could help but I’ve so little success finding information about our model of Charter Oak too. I find pictures and other people who have stoves and are searching for information, but not much in the way of helpful data. I visited a couple of stove stores and talked to the people who do restoration on old pieces and they were very knowledgable, so you might try that. I know Charter Oak was based in the St. Louis area for decades so there might be a trail to follow there. Good luck!

  7. #13 by PAUL KLUGMAN on May 25, 2012 - 11:34 am

    We are building a log home and I aquired a Charter Oak model 74.18 pl from an antique shop. I have it torn down and all the nickel parts off for replating. I will reside in the new kitchen completely hooked up for use. It is a 6 burner with the overhead warming compartments. It appears to be in great shape and can’t wait to see it in place and hooked up. I can’t find any literature on this model and there is an opening (with a little door) that I can not figure out the function.

    • #14 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on May 29, 2012 - 10:56 am

      Your new old stove sounds lovely! A log home is the perfect ambience for one of these beauties. I’ve never seen your particular model but the old-style cookstoves with the warming units are so nice. Charter Oaks seem to be hard to locate information about. I know the company was in business for a long time but other than historical data I’ve found very little about our particular model. Hard to imagine that at one time almost every household had this type of heat producing unit and now a small percentage survives. Some of the new stoves are pretty nice too but I like the overly ornate cast iron appearance. Good luck with your project!

  8. #15 by Edmund Miller on September 20, 2013 - 12:42 pm

    Preparing to install a #19 Charter Oak in our hunting “Barn”. My wife and I started married life in 1958 with this same unit. It has been in the family al these years.

    • #16 by Lesann Berry on September 28, 2013 - 10:50 pm

      Now that is pretty cool! What a fun way to continue using something that has been a part of your lives for so long. We got ours installed and running and love it. There’s nothing quite like a wood stove to feel homey. Thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  9. #17 by Gail Wyatt on December 16, 2013 - 11:35 am

    We purchased #11 this week end. When our cabin in the woods is finished it will be the focal point!

    • #18 by Lesann Berry on December 16, 2013 - 7:26 pm

      Congratulations! Aren’t the antique stoves the best? We have ours fired up several nights a week and it’s always enjoyable. They look so inviting even when there’s no fire. Enjoy!

  10. #19 by George Ashton on May 25, 2014 - 3:43 pm

    May I has how much you paid for your parlor stove? I have a Charter Oak 24 that needs to be restored and I have no idea of what it might be worth. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    • #20 by Lesann Berry on May 27, 2014 - 10:51 am

      I paid $150 for my stove and we removed it from the house where it was probably an original install. It was in good working condition and only needed some cleaning and minor repairs. Granted, mine shows the wear and tear of use from many decades so I’m not sure it would be a good comparison. For such a long-lived company that produced so many stoves, it’s difficult to find information about Charter Oak appliances. I’ve seen them range in price from $30 to $400 but there are many different styles too. I suspect there may be some regional desirability too. Good luck!

  11. #21 by Verna Jo Hollingshead on June 26, 2014 - 11:39 am

    I have a Charter Oak stove that I really love! Although when I was going thru a divorce my husband stripped it down and eventually did not give me the handle that latches the door back. I was wondering if by chance you have any idea of where I might be able to get a new handle. I have goggled Charter Oak and they are not in business any more. Thanks for any assistance, Verna Jo Holloingshead

    • #22 by George A. on June 27, 2014 - 4:55 am

      Mill Creek Antiques in Kansas does stove restoration work. They might be able to help you.

      • #23 by Lesann Berry on June 27, 2014 - 1:03 pm

        Thanks for offering this source, George! It’s helpful to share good resources when it comes to these antique beauties.

    • #24 by Lesann Berry on June 27, 2014 - 1:02 pm

      Hi Verna. Sounds like you have a very fine little Charter Oak stove. Missing stove parts are pretty common. When you think of how old these devices are getting to be and how many have been well-loved for so many decades, replacement parts become a necessity too. Your best bet is probably going to be a business that renovates and restores antique stoves. Even if they can’t guess exactly what the original piece would look like, they can find a replacement part that will function properly and be safe to use. If you can’t find one in your local area – the internet offers many alternatives and since you won’t be paying a hefty shipping cost, that’s a plus! With the ability to send photos via email, figuring out the right fit shouldn’t be a problem. Good luck!

  12. #25 by Verna Jo Hollingshead on June 28, 2014 - 6:45 am

    Thank you so much for your advice, I will get right on that!

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