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Traditional Trades: Antique Stove Restorer

What started out as a way for one New Englander to earn some extra income evolved into a lifelong passion for antique stove restoration. By Stephen T. Spewock | Photos by Dan Cutrona

    Doug Pacheco restores antique stoves in an old horse barn in Massachusetts.

    Doug Pacheco restores antique stoves in an old horse barn in Massachusetts.

    The Barnstable Stove Shop is not unlike many of the varied one-owner businesses dotting the byways of rural Massachusetts: As you pass the old coal depot, turn left just after the tracks of the Cape Cod railway; if you pass the town cemetery, you’ve gone too far. There is a universal familiarity to pulling down the tree-lined drive that leads up to the massive 1880s barn where owner Doug Pacheco plies the wares of a homegrown establishment achieved after decades of commitment, earned one day at a time. And in Doug’s case, measured one stove at a time.

    It becomes quickly evident why locals refer to Doug as the “stove guy”—and not because of the huge gold-leaf “STOVES” sign hanging above the barn’s large sliding door. He has hundreds of antique wood-, coal-, and gas-burning stoves at various stages of disassembly interspersed throughout the swaying long grass of his front yard. Like rusting steel tombstones from a forgotten era, they compete for space with the crowded footpaths that converge toward the office entrance, forcing determined visitors to just “go around.”

    “We call it the boneyard,” Doug says with a shrug. “Believe it or not, we took three stoves out of there—two Glenwoods and a nice cookstove—and redid them for the National Park Service out in Provincetown—all part of an effort to restore the old Life Saving Station.” At first glance, wayfaring tire-kickers might have difficulty with Doug’s claim. And apparently the people on the committee tasked with selecting the antique stoves were guilty of the same disbelief. “I told them the stoves were perfect, that everything was there—they came out of an old dairy barn in Whitman, Massachusetts. In one month, we restored them with high-back shelves, authentic coal grates, new kerosene burners—drove them up there and installed them. They still can’t believe it was the same three stoves!” he exclaims.

    Despite first inclinations, Doug’s unbridled enthusiasm comes from a different place. No doubt, as sole proprietor he has done his share of buying and selling, researching and marketing—all required at various times in various amounts to help build a successful business. But deep down, beneath the showmanship, shines forth a light of peaceful joy, belied by his unwavering belief in the goodness of rediscovering the boundless history wrapped up in countless piles of discarded cast iron, sheet metal, brass figurines, and nickel-plated trim. “Every stove has a different story, and if stoves could talk, they’d have a lot to say,” he says, calmly resonating with the rarified wisdom of late baseball great Yogi Berra.

    In the Beginning

    Pacheco begins the restoration process by disassembling the old stoves.

    Pacheco begins the restoration process by disassembling the old stoves.

    Inside the main entrance of the restored horse and hay barn, there’s a plethora of paraphernalia to support Doug’s convictions. Behind the dozen or so pristine restored heat stoves that adorn the showroom floor space—like proud jewels in a king’s crown—one is bombarded by the countless number of artifacts, procured over time, that take up every square inch of wall space. They document the rise and fall of the cast-iron stove industry from its modest conception of “portable fireplaces” in the early 1830s, through its meteoric rise with mass production during the post–Civil War industrial revolution, to its eventual demise with the enamel gas-burning units of the 1920s.

    There are hundreds of photographs of the factories where the stoves were made, of the showrooms where they were sold, and of the churches and saloons where they were used—everywhere from Connecticut to Colorado, Maine to Florida. Adorning the walls and support beams are the boldly colored marquee signs once used by dealers to grab one’s attention in favor of a particular brand, with names like Acorn and Atlantic, Splendid and Summit, Red Shore and Red Cross, Harold and Modell, Plymouth and Waverly.

    Many of these companies were concentrated in New England. Both Boston and Taunton were once known as “stove cities,” with Crawfords and the broadly popular Glenwoods being produced in each town, respectively. “The old Crawford factory was actually located along the Charles River in Watertown,” explains Doug.

    Other factories weren’t as fortunate. As demand for stoves began to shrink after the Great Depression, foundries closed and workers dispersed, creating ghost towns out of previously thriving communities. Ironically, one of the only major companies to endure the transformation was Garland Stoves of Detroit, Michigan, which still makes commercial-grade gas ranges today.

    “The absolute mecca of stove building was the Troy and Albany area of New York,” says Doug. “They had unlimited access to water energy from the Hudson River, and huge deposits of some of the finest sand required to make the hand-cut casting molds.” Raw iron ore mined in northern Michigan had a short trip through the Great Lakes down east through Buffalo and then over to the booming factories around Troy and Albany. “Many of the early artisanal column stoves from this area are considered by many collectors as the most beautiful,” says Doug.

    Pacheco then torches and sands the stoves, and adds a coat of paint to bring them back to life. The nickel plating is done in New Bedford.

    Pacheco then torches and sands the stoves, and adds a coat of paint to bring them back to life. The nickel plating is done in New Bedford.

    Works in Progress

    Sliding through a door at the back of the showroom, we enter into the smaller workshop, where Doug begins the actual process of breaking down stoves. It’s a space diametrically opposed to the quaint, museum-like organization witnessed in the room before: bright lights overhead reveal a burnt black residue covering the entire space, developed over years of torching, welding, sanding, and painting. Hundreds of metal hand tools fight for shelf space with canned aerosol solvents—all surrounding a cement, board-layered workbench—while strips and shards of scrap metal are scattered across the floor.

    Once disassembled, the pieces are wheelbarrowed out the screened side door and down a ramp to the sandblasting pit, where each load gets a “good going over” to remove the dirt and corrosive rust accumulated from a century of neglect. After blasting is complete, all of the pieces are immediately returned to the shop—or just outside if the weather’s nice—for painting and reassembly. “We try to do everything as it was, as it should be,” says Doug. Not an easy task when there are thousands and thousands of parts pertaining to each stove’s specific year, make, and model—mostly lost in attics, cellars, garages, or storage sheds across America.

    Back through the workshop, we cross over to the other half of the barn’s floor space: interior storage for roughly another 200 stoves. “I’ve taken inventory a couple times,” sighs Doug, “but I’m losing track these days.” Quietly standing in neatly organized rows, the stoves seem more intact and in better overall shape than the boneyard’s less-organized piles of rusty specimens—partly due to being out of the weather, but also because they came to Doug in more complete packages. “This is what we call our ‘undone inventory,’ stoves that have all the parts and just need to be put together. We reseal, reline, repaint, reassemble, re-everything. Make the stove brand-new, just like you see ’em back in the showroom!” His energy is infective, while his straightforwardness bears a light burden. “Do you want to go see the museum?” he asks.

    If These Stoves Could Talk

    The showroom of Barnstable Stoves is reminiscent of a museum, with stove paraphernalia lining the walls.

    The showroom of Barnstable Stoves is reminiscent of a museum, with stove paraphernalia lining the walls.

    Directly across the road from Doug’s barn is a small and tired farmhouse, only steps from the paved road. Plate glass windows across the front reflect the traffic whizzing by, yet also reveal another stash of wonderfully preserved antique stoves—all standing at attention while peering out at a world that keeps passing by without realizing what treasures await inside. “This used to be an old general store and post office,” explains Doug. “I put a roof on it and gave it a coat of paint when I first moved in—it was really a cool spot back then,” he explains. “It could really use some more work today.” The owners—two old ladies in the bigger farmhouse next door—have rented the space to Doug since 1978, and so far haven’t mentioned changing the lease. “I’d like to set it up as a museum when I retire,” he confides.

    Just as in the barn across the street, Doug has been able to squirrel away maybe another 150 antique stoves, so many that the spillover was repopulating a “Boneyard, Part Two” out in the tall grass behind the house. “We call that the Out Back!” Doug laughs and then turns semi-serious. “I’m trying my best to keep it to a minimum.”

    Moving through the structure, one can’t help but notice that each room contains a different style of stove that pertains to a different period: The entryway holds 10 to 15 early column stoves of the 1830s; the front parlor another 10 basic cookstoves with finer details from the 1840s; the hallway harbors 10 more basic models from around the Civil War; a room further back in the house contains 10 to 15 taller, more slender “oak” stoves from the 1880s that were used in front parlors and burn either wood or coal; the next room back holds a few beautiful turn-of-the-century six-lid cookstoves that circulated hot water to heat more efficiently; and the last room retains a smattering of miscellaneous units, predominated by some gas-fired enamel stoves from the 1920s.

    As we move from room to room, Doug explains some of their specific history, as if already preparing for an eventual role as curator. “This one here was a ‘column stove’ from the 1840s, with either two to four exposed columns connecting the stove to a heat box higher up the flue to help disseminate more heat before exiting the chimney. The four-column was considered the crème de la crème for its time.” He continues: “Look at this rare cookstove from 1855 made in Albany. It’s the size of a table with four large cook lids—very solid! It had a cast-iron liner to protect the fire wall of the box from the tremendous amount of heat.” Redirecting again: “That one was called ‘The Harvard’ and was made by Fuller and Warren, one of the bigger companies in the Troy/Albany area. Built around 1875, it was a very popular coal- or wood-burning Franklin-type stove with a ‘fire view,’ which sells pretty well to people even today.”

    The history lesson is peppered with occasional background information of a personal nature, as if the stoves were lost relatives at some family reunion he hadn’t seen or heard from in ages. “Here’s one still wrapped in 1930s newspapers from when I removed it from the Empire Stove Company’s warehouse attic!” Coming across a modern boxed unit, he recalls, “Just restored a gray one of these old Fairmounts—wood-and-gas combination—for a woman over in Wareham who inherited it from her father. It was all busted up inside, and we totally went through the whole thing: new grates, new lining, new gas fittings, new everything. Brought it back within a month!” Pointing to a nice oak stove, he says, “This one came from Florida—Tampa Bay area. Traveled down with some scientist from New York who was a butterfly expert. Wound up at his other home in Sarasota.”

    One can’t help but wonder how he keeps all the names, dates, styles, places, and people cataloged. “It’s all right here in the Library of Congress,” he says, pointing to his head. “Good thing I still have my marbles as best I do,” he deadpans in his best Boston accent, somewhat lost from living around the cranberry bogs of Cape Cod for almost 40 years. “Seriously, most every stove can tell you what you need to know: what model it was, where it was made, who made it, and what year they made it—all stamped into the design when forged. On top of that, companies were forced to come up with new designs to coincide with the expiration of their patents, which occurred every 10 years or so. After a while you recognize what parts go with what pieces.”

    End of the Line

    After locking up the “museum” and dodging traffic, Doug explains the high point of his annual calendar: “Gotta pack up for the Brimfield Antiques Fair this week.” There, he’ll hold court with hundreds of serious antiques dealers, all competing for the attention of thousands of potential customers. “After that, it’s up to Maine for the annual stove collectors’ conference,” which should be well-attended, as one of the sponsors is liquidating his entire collection at auction. “Then, it’s back to Barnstable—back to the trenches, as I call it.” We’re briefly interrupted by the Cape Cod Central Railroad’s scenic train, passing parallel to Doug’s driveway less than 100 feet away, completely restored to its original condition. The train disappears and Doug continues, once again plumbing the depths of Yogi Berra’s book of wisdom: “If I don’t do it, then it doesn’t get done.”

    Back inside the barn, I ask Doug how long he intends to keep up the current pace. “As long as I can,” he replies. “I’m hitting 60 in August—I try to stay in shape and keep at it. Got another 10 years or so before I can get things in line maybe the way I’d like to.” Despite 30-plus years in the stove restoration business, Doug says, “Basically, business is one day at a time and one stove at a time. You have to sell to buy, and you have to buy to sell—it’s a vicious cycle, but you have to just keep the wheels turning.”

    With that, we say our goodbyes, and on the way out the door, a worn bumper sticker placed near the clear glass sidelight catches my attention: “Happiness is a warm wood stove.” I start thinking that maybe before this winter starts, I’ll pay Doug Pacheco another visit, but this time as an interested buyer.

    Stephen T. Spewock is a freelance writer living in Massachusetts.

    Published in: New Old House Fall/Winter 2010

    { 82 comments }

    matt pulis February 6, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Who can you please tell me what the value of my wood stove could be. I have looked on the internet and I can find nothing remotely resembles what I have. It has 4 hot plates on top although 1 is missing. Unfortunately it is also missing 3 out of the 4 legs. The only identification markings I can find is no. 8. Any info on this item that you could pass on to me would be greatly appreciated thank you

    betty Kirby February 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    We have a Tip-Top Congress wood-burning iron stove wth 4 burners on top and oven, one kettle that fits in burner, door opens on each side for oven. Stove measures 3 ft. deep and 21″ wide. Bowed legs with design. We know it was used in the 1920s. Seems to be in excellent condition. Is there any interest in a stove of this type today?

    betty Kirby February 13, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Is there any value to a top top congress woodburning iron stove? : 4 top burners with a kettle that fits in one; oven that opens on both sides, bowed feet wth design, in excellent condition. Know it is well over 100 yrs. old. Any information would be welcome.

    chris komer April 9, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    could you possibly give me an idea of approximate value of an operational *harvard* coal/wood stove in perfect condition? I know it varies greatly but I jsut purchased one and I would like to get an idea? Thank you. It still has the top part with the cast iron bowl even ^^

    Margaret Wagner June 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Do you know of any body in the Illinois area that restoes antique enamel stoves?

    Regis Theriac August 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Im looking for the top lid and bottom round screw in draft control for a jacobs no.16 Top lid is round and lots of cracks with part of outside ring missing where it bolts down. Also top is missing the round removable loading door.

    Patti Leavitt January 15, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Circa 1880-1900, Manufactured By Weir Stove Co. 25″W x 25″D, Overall Height: (Glenwood Oak #30 Victorian Cylinder Stove)
    It is in good shape, it needs to be nickeled and the myca replaced, can you give me a ballpark figure on what cost I might expect? Also what is the price range for one in real good shape? One more thing, can I do it myself or would it be best to leave that to the professionals?
    Thanks for your help and advise.
    -Connie

    Patti Leavitt January 15, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Circa 1880-1900, Manufactured By Weir Stove Co. 25″W x 25″D, Overall Height: 62″ (sorry, after I sent my last questions I realized I did not include the height) woops!
    -Connie

    Loretta May 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    We have a Port Jervis Stove Works cast iron woodstove that we are interested in selling. It is in excellent condition. We are wondering if you know how much it is worth. Could you please advise and/or point us in the direction of someone who may be interested in buying it? We live in Sullivan County, New York. Thank you for your time!

    gene dawson July 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

    i recently bought a glenwood oak #30 all pieces are there just need to find a restorer in oklahoma city area? and if anyone can give me an appraisal on it no cracks all there ?

    Betty Kowalski September 15, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Can you tell me where I can the name plate “Comfort Stove” for my stove. It’s a small parlor stove

    household oak October 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Hi does any one know the year of this round “household oak ” stove.Where would you look for the year it was made. How much is it worth I have all the pieces and it is in pretty good shape,although I would not use it until I get it checked out .

    mark October 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    I have a Monarch 1865 stove no 6 pat D June,27 1865 pending 26 pittsburg PA that’s what it says on the stove it is a very big potbelly woodburner anyone know anything about it??? I think that’s what it says on the front it is pretty tall like around 5 feet or so?

    David Stauffer November 4, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    I have a wood stove with the markings: A. Auchey Jefferson York Co Pa. Noble Cook. The cooking surface is made of three separate cast Iron rings. The stove is round and will hold large logs. I am looking for any information that I can find out about the stove.

    Henry Dutkowski November 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    http://www.oldhouseonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/stove-restoration-working-200×300.jpg
    I have a complete stove as in your picture where you are using a torch to dismantle it. Brown Stove Works Inc, Cleveland Tenn. I can not find anything about the manufacturer of this stove or its value. Where can I get some info or aprox value of this relic.

    Desira Cook May 30, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I have a Glenwood Oak stove I think it is a number 40. My husband was running it in the garage last year. It is all together but needs the nickel and cast iron cleaned. I plan to move soon and would like to sell it. Can you help me.Thank you

    K Oliveira June 4, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Hello Desira. I’m interested In Buying your glenwood oak stove. Do you still have it and is it for sale. Let me know. I live in southeastern mass. You can email me at KOliveira1978@yahoo.com. Thanks.

    G. Malone July 15, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    I have a Jacob Manufacturer cast iron wood burning stove cozy #18, I am interested in having it appraised and probably selling it, can anyone let me know how I can start to do this.

    Laurie Bender August 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I have a 1910 Glenwood duel gas/coal oven that we are looking to sell. It was completely refurbished in 1999. Any suggestions are welcome!

    Bob Simmons August 13, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    I have a Modern Glenwood Oak No.16 which needs a new grate and also the “Belly” is pretty well burned out. Any chance you have the parts I need and could make them available to me? I have been using the “old gal” in my woodworking shop for many years and I hate to give up on her!

    Denise September 8, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Good Morning,

    While doing some barn cleaning, we discovered this Glenwood cook stove made in Taunton , MA. I found a metal plate with the patents and the number “SM16RET” on the side of the stove. It appears to be in pretty good condition except for some rust inside on the cast iron and a detached leg that can be repaired. I was wondering how to find out the worth of this stove, we would like to sell it “as is”. Thanks for any help you can give us. I can send pictures if you would like to see it. Denise

    Jay Benrard September 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    We have a Victory Crawford stove that has totally restored & converted to propane. The wood cabinet on the left has been converted to a heater & works very well. We are interested in the selling the stove & hope to get an approximate value of what the stove is worth.
    Please provide me with your e-mail address & we can send you pictures.
    Thank you.

    Nancy Chaplick October 20, 2014 at 12:16 am

    We have a wood burning stove – has HARVARD on the front of it. Excellent condition – need to sell because we are selling family home and moving – does anyone know where I can find the value of such a treasure. We’ve had it about 60 years. It has four burners on the top with front opening for oven and side door for coal or gas?

    Howard Buck November 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I have a Moores air tight oak heating stove (coal&wood) Is there place to get parts. Ithink it was made around 1900. Only marking other than name on door is 22 18.

    Sandra C. Willis November 26, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I’m restoring a #153 Florence parlor stove. I need to buy the three piece decorative skirt for this stove. I would settle for this part for either the #153 or #155. Dimensionally they are all interchangeable. I would appreciate information on anything that might be available.

    kristie Stegall November 28, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Looking for stove parts for a modern Detroit jewel stove. Need side door.. If you could help us in anyway it would be a blessing. Thank you

    julie hanauer January 11, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Does anyone know if Washington Stove Works pot belly stoves can burn both wood and coal? Does anyone carry replacement parts? Thanks!

    Scott Helmers March 31, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Looking for a door handle and damper knob for a Detroit Jewel No.24.
    Any recommendations?

    Veronica norris June 21, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    I had our fireside garland parlor stove put in this year and used it all winter ,we love it. I wish I knew more about it.

    JoAnn October 19, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Hi, I just bought a “Delux Jr” wood cook stove. It has 6 burners, it is a green and white ceramic. It has a warming shelf on top. It was built by Bluefield Supply Company which was located in Bluefield, West Virgina. The date or at least the one that resembles a date is 1810. I need to get some fire box liners for a few of them are broken was wondering if you might know of a place that would sell such things or forge them. If you have any thoughts or ideas I’m open to listening. Would really like to be able to us my stove it is really in great condition for as old as it is. Best Wishes, JoAnn

    Lorraine Surette March 20, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Hello,
    I have been searching for a replacement door latch for my HearthMate Wood
    Stove Model HM-2200. I believe the stove is 50+ years old and the Manufacturer has been closed for some time. I also know that their patent is
    expired. The door latch had been loose for some time but temporarily remedied by inserting a split washer on the outside handle area. I wanted to make it a permanent fix by attempting to remove a drift pin on the inside latch area. The latch mechanism was cracked in the process so I am now searching for a replacement latch part only in an attempt to repair it myself.
    I reside in Western Massachusetts and would greatly appreciate help in finding this part. Woodman’s Parts Plus does not have this part nor was I able to find it in Vt. , New Hampshire or any on line stove part distributor. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide LCS

    Elston August 4, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    I recently found a washington stove works no.21 on my property I just bought. Used to be an old dairy farm. Any way I’m looking for the front door it is gone completely just the old hinge pin is left. Any one know of a place where their could be parts purchased for these? Thank you in advance. elstonmir@gmail.com



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