Imagine this: Snow falling to pad the ground in white while you are nested in blankets taking refuge from the cold, basking in manufactured warmth. For ages, the ideal winter’s day has been spent gathered inside, either in front of a crackling hearth or cast iron heater, while the snow outside adds a tranquil, dreamy backdrop beyond the window. Today, in the era of faux fireplaces and central heat, we don’t think too much about where that cozy warmth is coming from. For two Little Compton proprietors, it’s their business.
The Antique Stove Hospital is a refuge for old-fashioned coal, wood, and gas stoves, ranges, broilers, heaters, and ovens. Father-son duo Emery and Brandon Pineo, self-proclaimed “Paleostoveologist” and “Stove Whisperer” respectively, have been restoring antique stoves since the ‘90s, after Emery tinkered and refurbished his own 20 years prior. The Pineos don’t just clean them up to sell as vintage home accessories; they repair each one to working condition to be used for its original purpose.
“They just don’t make stoves like they used to,” says Brandon, pointing out the durability of iron stoves compared to today’s limited warranty, mass-assembled ones. “They were made to last for generations.” He and his father spend hours upon hours, often months, fixing up the stoves brought to them by clients from as far as Alaska and the United Arab Emirates: disassembling, cleaning, welding, caulking, reassembling, painting, installing, and polishing. The finished product is as shiny as day-one, which could have been as long ago as the eighteenth century or as recent as the 1930s – give or take.
Brandon and Emery have seen a lot of notable stoves and ranges pass through their shop: a massive Gilded Age Bramhall Dean French range, the currently only known Gardner Chilson Trio Stove from 1844, and the L. Fuller Patent Step Stove, among the earliest kitchen cooking stoves from 1837 with a “summer cooker” to limit heat production in the home while cooking. However, one of the most memorable dated from at least the 1680s, and was “probably the oldest stove in the New World,” says Brandon, which his father found for just $100 at a Tiverton yard sale.
The shop itself is a rotating treasure trove: There are between 300 and 400 stoves kept in stock, most filling the barn out back and others spilling into the yard. Tools and spare parts dominate entire rows of shelves inside, and a blanket of black sand marks a workspace dedicated to sanding metal. Attached to their workshop is their showroom, which boasts even more specimens of heaters and stoves, but also quirky items like toy stoves, travelling ranges, decorated flue hole covers, and even a vintage fridge. In the Hospital’s lifetime, the Pineos have doctored around 5,000 stoves, rebuilding between 100 and 150 per year. Most are from clients looking for a practical way to heat their house without electricity, or for a period-appropriate appliance to match their historic home. Some are abandoned at their shop, or salvaged.
While the Pineos acknowledge the nostalgia and aesthetic of antique stoves, they are insistent on putting practicality first. Yes, there may be something alluring about the gleam of a freshly polished Glenwood Wood Parlor, but people should also appreciate how it heats a home like it did so many generations ago - and will continue to do. After all, in the middle of winter, there’s nothing quite like feeling cozy and warm.