Parlor fireplace, Manship House Museum.

During the nineteenth century, fireplaces were often decorated during the hot summer months.  The empty fireplace was considered to be unsightly when not in use and the source of falling soot and other chimney debris.  Ladies’ magazines were filled with clever suggestions for ornamenting the empty fireplace opening.  Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, April, 1859, provided the following instructions:

In the warm summer days, the open fireplace is an unsightly object, and pretty devices to hide it are very acceptable to the careful housekeeper.  We offer our readers one that is pretty, new, and easily made.

Take a piece of board that fits exactly into the space.  Tack over it with small tacks a cover of green baize, stretching it tightly and smoothly over it.  Make out of stiff, green paper a number of leaves, dahlia, rose, tulip, lily, etc., making them very large, and enough of them to cover entirely the green baize.  Baste these leaves down at the stem, curl them at the edges with the scissors, and gum them down on the baize.  Do not sew them anywhere except at the stem.  Now make large paper-flowers, or, if you have them, take artificial flowers, and smooth them over.  Place the flowers among the leaves, either following our pattern, or using your own taste in the arrangement.  Five large roses should be placed at the corners and in the centre.  Sew the flowers at the stem; but if you wish to fasten the flowers themselves down, use dissolved gum-Arabic.