Shoveling Coal
A By-Gone Brookline Tradition

Shoveling Coal to heat the house

Up until the mid-20th Century the vast majority of Brookline homes were heated with coal furnaces. Conversion to natural gas was implemented in many homes in the 1940s and 1950s. There were still coal furnaces in operation as late as 1970.

In the old days, near the turn of the century, heating coal could be obtained near Stetson Street from the Paul Coal Mining Company. Residents would haul the load home on a horse-drawn wagon or on foot with buckets. As time went on, home deliveries by truck made the process of obtaining coal much easier. Getting it into the home was another matter.

The photo above shows Richard Dunn (left) and Donald Fornear, taken around 1943 near 1407 Woodbourne Avenue, just a little beyond Freedom Avenue. The coal trucks dumped on the load on the sidewalk in front of the houses. Many of the homes along Woodbourne have steps leading up to the house. The coal had to be carried in buckets and dumped into the coal cellar. Homes had coal chutes, often along the front porch. The coal would be dumped directly into the coal cellar. It was a back-breaking, filthy job, repeated every week: winter, spring, summer and fall.

The legacy of the coal furnace, for those who live in an older Brookline home, is soot. It's a black toner-like film embedded in the walls and ductwork that makes itself evident during remodeling. Another thought: back in the old days, the chimney-sweep was a common site along the rooftops of Brookline.

* Photo provided by Brian Fornear *

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