Batman vs Superman Chimney

Phony Chimney for Batman vs Superman movie

Filming is going on right now in Detroit for the upcoming blockbuster movie, Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice. But before filming started, a phony, exploding chimney was created with the magic of Hollywood.

Henry Cavill returns as Superman and the unassuming reporter, Clark Kent.  His main squeeze, Lois Lane, will be played by Amy Adams.  We’ll see Ben Affleck as Batman (and Bruce Wayne) in a new $100,000 BatSuit.  Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) and Aquaman also appear.  The villain is Lex Luthor, Superman’s hyper-intelligent arch enemy, played by Jesse Eisenberg.

Much of the action takes place in and around the Ransom Gillis House, an historic home in the Brush Park neighborhood of Detroit.  Ransom Gillis was a very successful dry goods merchant who had this Venetian Gothic home built between 1876 and 1878.  Gillis sold the home in 1880 and a succession of four wealthy families owned it until 1919.  Converted to a rooming house, as so many Brush Park homes were, the house lasted until about 1960 before significant deterioration occurred.

Here’s how the old home looked soon after it was built:

Model Ransom Gillis House constructed by Kevin Mueller

Replica model Ransom Gillis House constructed by Kevin Mueller

This photo below shows the home at its worst.  Its second chimney, striking turret and roof are in ruins.

Missing Chimney

The Ransom Gillis House in February 2005, Copyright © John Kossik

After several failed renovation attempts between 1970 and about 2005, the City of Detroit placed the home in its “Mothball” program to protect it until, hopefully, a developer would take an interest in restoring it.

So at last someone will make use of this magnificent old home.  It will be immortalized in a blockbuster Batman vs Superman movie.  Here’s how the Ransom Gillis House looked before the film crew started work:

Construction of the Phony Chimney for Batman vs Superman Movie

But wait!  The house is missing one of its two chimneys!  That will have to be fixed before the house is featured in Batman vs. Superman:  Dawn of Justice.  We already know that several owners have tried to restore the home and have failed.  Restoring the home for the movie would cost way more than the budget for the movie would allow.  So that’s where Hollywood creativity takes over.

The Warner Brothers’ film crew is building a phony chimney to replace the one that fell down.  They are also making breakaway panels of faux brick that will “explode” during the movie.

Here’s the phony chimney under construction:

"Brick" wall of phony chimney

Phony chimney construction for Batman vs Superman – Photo by Tim Malin 

The wooden frame on the side of the house will be covered in panels of faux brick to create the chimney.

Phony Chimney for Batman movie

Phony Batman vs Superman chimney is readied. Instagram photo by Diane Weiss

At the lower center of the photo above, you can see the façade that looks just like the remaining real chimney.  It will soon be hoisted into place by a crane that is standing by.

For at least the duration of the of the filming of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, this grand old lady is still alive. Be sure to look for the scenes in the movie that feature this phony chimney.



Posted in General

Halloween Fireplace Decorating

Halloween fireplace decorating

Halloween fireplace decorating becomes more popular each year. Americans spend 6.9 billion dollars on Halloween in 2015 . Folks are celebrating the holiday with more than costumes and candy; they are investing in Halloween-themed home decorations, including Halloween fireplace decorating.

But not all Halloween fireplace decorating requires a financial commitment. More often, a bit of ingenuity coupled with a playful, perhaps ghoulishly slanted spirit are all that are required.

Find inspiration for your Halloween hearth, mantel and fireplace in these 12 Halloween fireplaces that range from the simple and quick to the simply awesome!

Halloween Fireplace Decorating for the Mantel

1.  The lit Halloween houses on this fireplace mantel are adorable. But it is all the little details that make it enchanting! Notice the small pumpkins, miniature sheathes of wheat, spooky black trees, and of course the tiny flying bats that complete Aimee’s fireplace mantel. Even the dark wall adds to the total effect.

Halloween houses on the fireplace mantel.

Halloween houses on the fireplace mantel. Photo courtesy Aimee G


2. Traditional mantel accessories (candles in holders, framed pictures, a vase of flowers, and a clock above the mantel) get the full-on Halloween, spooky treatment in the mantel below. Don’t miss the vase of black roses, creepy spiders and bats, and (our favorite!) the bloody hand print on the round black clock.

Don't miss the bloody hand print on the clock above this Halloween fireplace mantel!

Don’t miss the bloody hand print on the clock above this Halloween fireplace mantel! Photo courtesy


3. This batty fireplace is a real eye-catcher! The mantel shelf holds a display of while pillar candles and a small autumnal arrangement. But the glory goes to the flying bats! Using a bat template, cut bats out of black cardstock, fold their wings, and attach them in flight formation from the fireplace, to the mantel, to the ceiling with sticky tack. Or get a ready-made set of cardboard bats.

Cut bat shapes from black cardstock, fold wings, and attach to fireplace with sticky tack.

Cut Bat shapes from black cardstock, fold wings, and attach to fireplace with sticky tack. Photo courtesy


4. Want something quick and simple, but dramatic? A garland of lit pumpkins draped from your mantel gives instant Halloween appeal. Just plug them in, light the fireplace, and dim the room lights!

Pumpkin garland lights accent the Halloween mantel.

Pumpkin garland lights accent the Halloween mantel. Photo courtesy http://twitter/RealJennyLarkin


5. Here’s a minimalist mantel decoration with maximum Halloween impact! One life-size human skull displayed with striking lighting creates an eerie, can’t-look-away mantel display.  Add a scene from a scary movie, and your blood may chill.

A single, spot-lighted skull, and a scene from a black and white horror movie create a simple but dramatic Halloween mantel

A single, spot-lighted skull, and a scene from a black and white horror movie create a simple but dramatic Halloween mantel. Photo courtesy

6.  An autumn mantel of pine cones and pumpkins gets jacked up for Halloween with the addition of cobwebs and skeleton. The children can help decorate by adding Halloween cling-on stickers to the mirror above the mantel.



Halloween Fireplace Decorating for the Hearth

The hearth is the section right in front of the fireplace that provides protection for your floor. Sometimes the just decorating the hearth is sufficient for giving your home that Halloween vibe.

7.  Pumpkins, candles, and flowers in fall colors adorn this charming Halloween hearth. This hearth decór leans more toward the romantic than the spooky. But even goblins and witches appreciate starry-eyed moments.

Roses in autumn colors balance this Halloween decorated heath.

Roses in autumn colors balance this Halloween decorated heath. Photo courtesy


8, 9, and 10.  One or more jack-o’-lanterns on the hearth , artfully arranged, is all that’s really needed to give your fireplace that Halloween spirit. The three hearths below all feature pumpkins with carved faces, the most traditional of all Halloween icons!

A jack-o-lantern on the hearth signals Halloween. Photo courtesy

 A grinning jack-o’-lantern on the hearth signals Halloween.
Photo courtesy

A mix of pumpkins and “extreme” carving jacks on the hearth of this
modern fireplace bring on the Halloween spirit.
Photo courtesy


Photo courtesty

A trio of cleverly carved jack-o’-lanterns grace the hearth of an antique, cast iron
and tile fireplace. Photo courtesty



Halloween Fireplace Decoration – From Top to Bottom

For some, simply decorating the fireplace mantel or the fireplace hearth is not enough. The decorators whose fireplaces are shown below love to go all-out for Halloween!

11.  Ghosts galore! Lighted ghost figures and spooky white cobwebs decorate this whole fireplace, from mantel to hearth, creating an otherworldly Halloween display.

Ghostly fireplace hearth and mantel. Photo courtesy

Ghostly fireplace hearth and mantel. Photo courtesy


12.  This awe-inspiring Halloween fireplace has it all! Katie is the neighbor we all wish would come decorate our fireplace! She may have bought out the Halloween accessories at every store in town, from Halloween mantel scarf to black crows, but she knows how to arrange it all artistically with equal measures of whimsy and talent.

BOOOO-tiful Halloween fireplace has it all!BOOOO-tiful Halloween fireplace has it all! Photo courtesy


A Note of Caution to Halloween Fireplace Decorators: Be mindful of fire safety  and keep flammable items away from candle or fireplace fires.




Posted in Decorating, Holidays Tagged with: ,

What Size Fireback Do I Need?

How to measure your fireplace for a fireback

There are three factors to consider and two measurements to take when pondering what size fireback would be properly sized for your fireplace:

• Improving the heat efficiency of your fireplace

• Aesthetics

• Safety

You can select a fireback up to the width of your fireplace’s back wall.  (Sometimes that is the same width as your fireplace opening and other times the firebox tapers, so the back wall is narrower.)  If for example, the back wall of your fireplace is 22 inches wide, you can safely use a fireback up to 22 inches wide.

The height of your fireback can up to 3 inches shorter than the fireplace opening. Your fireback should not extend into the flue opening as it may interfere with the damper or cause the chimney not to draft properly.  The 3 inches accounts for the maximum the fireback stands will raise the fireback off the fireplace floor.

What Size Fireback Do I Need: Measure the back wall width and firebox height.

What Size Fireback Do I Need: Measure the back fireplace wall width and firebox height.

A cast iron fireback absorbs heat and radiates that heat back into your room.  Larger and thicker firebacks absorb and radiate more heat and stay warm longer than smaller or thinner firebacks.

Depending upon its size and thickness, a fireback can increase the efficiency of your fireplace by as much as 50%.

Cast iron firebacks are often embellished with a decorative motif, such as images of flora and fauna or family crests, in simple or ornate designs. They also come in a rectangular, square and arched shapes and have long been admired for their aesthetic value.


Stainless Steel firebacks in either a matte finish or a polished mirror finish have reflective surfaces that add an additional element of brightness when placed behind your fire. You can create drama and twice the light by pairing a stainless steel fireback with a fireplace candelabra.

Mirror polished stainless steel firebacks reflect light.

Mirror polished stainless steel firebacks reflect candle light or fire light.

Black stainless steel firebacks are also available. The are made of stainless steel but have a black, baked-on, heat-resistant paint. They combine the benefits of stainless steel with the aesthetics of the black cast iron ones.

 black stainless steel fireback

When used primarily for its aesthetic value, it is not uncommon for there to be 3” to 10” of exposed back wall of the fireplace on either side of the fireback. Sizing for aesthetics is simply a matter of personal taste.

Does Your Fireplace Back Wall Slant?

If the back of your fireplace is perpendicular to the floor, a heavy cast iron fireback can lean against the back wall of the fireplace; however, for optimum safety and to obtain a better view of your fireback, Saf-T-Boots or fireback stands are recommended.

Because they are light weight, stainless steel firebacks should always be secured with legs or mounting brackets to prevent them from sliding or falling forward pushing burning logs into your room.

Many fireplaces have back walls that angle inward. To insure proper balance use Saf-T-Boots to hold your fireback at the desired angle. Stainless Steel firebacks are sold with slotted legs to securely hold the fireback either straight up or angled forward.

To insure your fireback is sized properly, remember that although your fireback may be as wide as the back wall of your fireplace, your fireback – including the height the stands add – must always be shorter than the fireplace opening.

The featured photo at the top of this page shows the Atena Rooster Fireback  by Pennsylvania Firebacks in the Withdrawing Room fireplace of Powell House in Philadelphia. Photo by Pennsylvania Firebacks.








Posted in General, Using Your Fireplace Tagged with:

Fire Prevention Week History

What’s the real history of National Fire Prevention Week?

What event does National Fire Prevention Week commemorate? See if you know; what’s your guess about National Fire Prevention Week history?

a) The week during which the original Smokey the Bear’s birthday fell.

Smokey the Bear - Is he part of National Fire Prevention Week History?

Photo credit:

b) The week during which the Great Fire of London occurred.

The Great Fire of London - Is it part of National Fire Prevention Week history?

Photo credit:

c) The week during which the Great Chicago Fire occurred.

Click to see the right answer.

The Great Chicago Fire - Is it part of National Fire Prevention Week history?

Photo credit:























If you went for answer C, you were correct!

National Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago fire of October 8-9, 1871.  The fire took 250 lives, left 100,000 people homeless, destroyed 17,400 structures, and burned 2000 acres.

Contrary to myth, Mrs. O’Leary’s cows did not start the fire, although researchers are not sure who did.  Mrs. O’Leary was not in the barn that night with a lantern, she was asleep in her bed.  However, there is evidence that the fire did, in fact, start quite near her barn.

On that same day, October 8, 1871, a wildfire raced through the Peshtigo area in Northeast Wisconsin burning 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and charring 1.2 million acres.  The Peshtigo fire probably started when railroad workers burning brush pile allowed the flames to get away from them.

The two fires left a scar on the American consciousness.  The combined death toll of 1,402 almost equals the number of lives (1,500) lost when the Titanic sank.

In 1911, forty years after the two fires the Fire Marshalls Association of North America decided to make the anniversary of the two fires an occasion to raise public awareness of fire safety.  The movement grew until 1920 when President Wilson proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Day.

Every year since 1922 National Fire Prevention Week has been observed during the week that contains October 9.  There has been a Presidential proclamation of National Fire Prevention Week every year since 1925.

National Fire Prevention Week History of Themes That Reflect the Times

Each year National Fire Prevention Week has a short, catchy theme. The themes reflect the historical context and culture of their times.

  • During World War II, the themes included Today Every Fire Helps Hitler, Fight Fires for the Axis, and To Speed Victory, Defeat Fire.


  • The Cold War brought themes such as Defend America from Fire and Be Free from the Fear of Fire.


  • When the Baby Boomers entered school, the themes reflected the nation’s attention to children: Let’s Grow Up – Not Burn Up and Make Sure of Their Tomorrows – Don’t Give Fire a Place to Start.


  • As technological advances drastically reduced the cost of smoke detectors and alarms to the point average households could afford them, the themes encouraged their adoption (Where There’s Smoke, There Should Be a Smoke Alarm) and testing (A Sound You Can Live With: Test Your Smoke Detector and Test Your Detector for Life).


  • Remember when scented candles started appearing in virtually very store ? You won’t be surprised they also brought an increase in candle-related fires and thus the theme Use Candles with Care.

Want to know this year’s theme? Check the National Fire Protection Association’s website.

Posted in Holidays, Safety Tagged with: