Cast Iron Fireplace Surrounds
form a frame for the fireplace opening and provide a hanging mechanism
for a coal grate. They became popular in the mid-1800's on coal burning
fireplaces and remained in style until the 1930's.
Choose from reproduction London styles and antique American styles
surrounds have a nominal outside dimension of 37" - 38" square. They
most often had a cast iron firebox with a built-in damper, a raised
slide-in grate for the coal
to lay on and an ash cover which helped keep coal ash from blowing into
the room. Mantels were designed with a nominal 36" x 36" opening so
that the mantel OVERLAPPED the 37" x 37" plate.
AMERICAN STYLES deviated to having a smaller cast iron surround that simply frames the
opening. Where Londoners saw black cast iron completely filling their
mantel openings - sometimes in highly decorative designs - American
fireplaces commonly had tile, slate or marble faces visible between the
smaller cast iron frame and the interior of the mantel. The frame had
hooks that hold the coal grate and usually an ash cover as well. In
addition, American styles usually included a summer cover to close of
the fireplace when it was not in use, thereby serving the purpose of a
damper as well.
We carry both London and American style
cast iron surrounds; the London styles are reproductions while the
American styles are generally antiques. The London styles are simply too tall to
retrofit most American fireplaces so they're best used for faux
fireplaces or in new construction of masonry fireplaces where the
homeowner can specify the fireplace opening size unless the description says "flat on back".
The American styles are most often used for restoring an old fireplace
or for creating electric or faux fireplaces. Both styles have small
opening widths, as they were made to fit small coal burning fireplaces.