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Oaklea Mansion's Crooked Chimney

The story of Oaklea Mansion's crooked chimney is interesting but not uncommon in historical buildings. In addition to blogging, I own a masonry company specializing in historical masonry restoration. We often get calls from panicked new owners of historical buildings because their chimneys are crooked or leaning at a strange angle. These odd angles were built purposefully, and usually, as long as the brick is not crumbling and the chimney is falling apart, they are perfectly safe (always have them inspected before lighting a fire). Let's look at some reasons why there are crooked Chimneys. We will start with the coolest reason first.

The Witches Crook or Witches Bend

Back in the Dark Ages in Europe, people were obsessed with witches and other creatures of folklore. Unfortunately, many poor animals and humans were tortured and executed after bieng accused of witchcraft, possession, and shapeshifting. People were always looking for ways to prevent these creatures from entering the house. The legend was that witches could only fly in a straight line and never at an angle. Therefore, you could prevent a witch from divebombing into your house by building the chimney at an angle. When North America was "discovered," the new settlers brought their superstitions with them. This supposedly included building the witches crook or witches bends into the chimney of their fireplaces. Of course, this is just a story passed down through the ages. There is a more logical explanation.

Keeping the House Warm

The reason witches Crooks are found in older homes and buildings, and why there is one in Oaklea Mansion, is for warmth. When Oaklea was built 121 years ago, there was no central heat. So, to keep the house as warm as possible, fireplaces were built in the middle of the house. However, the architect wanted the chimneys to be more aesthetically pleasing on the outside. So you would not see the chimney stack from the road in front of the House; they built it up until they were in the attic and then made a slight bend where they wanted the stack to go. Sometimes, they had to make the chimney crook pretty severe since they could not see where the stack would go until they got into the attic. There is only a slight bend in Oaklea's chimney but I've seen them lean pretty far to get the angle they wanted in some buildings.

Building a witches Crook took a lot of skill. There were no laser levels or other modern tools to ensure the chimney could properly draw smoke. They had to rely on their abilities and experience to do it properly. Although it looks like an accident, it was not. They often got very creative even though you couldn't see them. If you have a home with this unique design, consider it a cool part of history. If you ever tour Oaklea Mansion, you may be lucky enough to see her witches' crook.


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