November 7, 2002, Thursday
HOUSE & HOME/STYLE DESK
HOUSE PROUD; The Vikings Retreat In the Face of a Classic
By BRADFORD McKEE (NYT) 1261 words
THE backlash against extreme appliances
started with me -- or so I believe. In the past year or so,
several friends have renovated their kitchens with sport-utility
ranges, those slick, stainless, six-burner models made by
Viking, KitchenAid and Jenn-Air and formerly found only in
finer restaurants. I've looked at them, even admired them,
but wondered if all that cooking capacity, all those B.T.U.'s,
were really necessary.
November 7, 2002,
HOUSE & HOME/STYLE DESK
The Not-So-Secret Society of Old-Stove
By BRADFORD McKEE (NYT) 339 words
If you want to kick some tires, so
to speak, on antique stoves, a few will be on display
this weekend and next at the Triple Pier Antiques Show
(Piers 88, 90 and 92, between West 48th and West 55th
Streets; $12; 212-255-0020). While you're there, you
may want to pick up some antique teakettles. Anyone
can stop by Mazer Store Equipment (207 Bowery, near
Delancey, 212-674-3450) during business hours Monday
through Friday and see their collection, which includes
a wood-burning stove, a couple of Magic Chefs, an old
commercial Garland with a salamander and, yes, an old
Chambers. None are for sale, however, and Mazer doesn't
do restorations. ''They are charming,'' said Bonnie
Mazer, who works in the family business. ''But if you
have one, make a planter out of it. They have small
burners, they're not that hot. If they have legs, forget
The Old Appliance Club, in Ventura,
Calif. (805-643-3532; www.theoldapplianceclub.com),
offers free consultations; publishes a magazine, The
Old Road Home; and sells door handles, griddle tops,
timer replacements and operating manuals. If you prefer
new appliances that look old, the Elmira Stove Works,
in Elmira, Ontario, sells vintage-looking refrigerators
and will introduce a range next year (800-295-8498;
If you have a stove that needs repair,
you should remember how hard stoves are to ship and
be aware that most dealers and restorers discourage
appraisals by phone. Waiting lists are long, though
the actual restoration, which may cost $2,500 to $4,000,
takes only a few weeks. Here are some some better-known
dealers and restorers.
* Antique Appliances, Clayton, Ga.;
(706) 782-3132; www.antiqueappliances.com.
* Antique Stove Heaven, Los Angeles;
(323) 298-5581; www.antiquestoveheaven.com.
* Antique Stoves, Tekonsha, Mich.;
(517) 278-2214; www.antiquestoves.com.
* Erickson's Antique Stoves, Littleton,
Mass.; (978) 486-3589 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Macy's Classic Stove Works, Houston;
www.macysclassicstoveworks.com or (713) 521-0934.
* Tim & Avi's Salvage Store, Indianapolis;
www.architecturalantiques.net or (317) 925-6071.
My friends had the industrial flash with
their $3,500-plus ranges and institutional ventilators. But
all that kept me from taking charge of a vintage 1940 Chambers
Model B cookstove was an otherwise lovely couple, tenants,
who didn't move out of the first floor of my house in Washington
The house had been carved up into four apartments
by previous owners. I bought it in 1999 with the intention
of turning it back into a single dwelling. Now that renovation
is under way, my kitchen plans center on that stove. Let my
friends strive to live up to their Vikings and turn another
leisure-time activity into a profession; I was taking a different
route, pure Granny, although my granny probably would have
loved a Viking. I was not trying to be a chef with my Chambers
stove, just a really good cook.
Then, just when I thought I was breaking
away from the pack, I discovered there was another pack, a
freemasonry of antique-stove nuts, connoisseurs of cast iron.
And far from being underground, it was a full-fledged craze.
And so, on my way to figuring out how to work my Chambers,
and maintain it, I became a bona fide old-stove geek.
On the Internet, people who own, collect
or covet the muscular, enameled World War II appliances can
find dealers, clubs and at least one magazine to feed their
obsession. These outfits deal in Chamberses, like mine, but
also in the nail-polish-red O'Keefe & Merritts, the six-burner
Tappan Deluxes and the Western Hollies with the jadeite tops.
They offer parts, service, sales, appraisals, manuals and
advice -- advice I needed, because my childhood was spent
with the sort of electric kitchen equipment awarded on ''Let's
Make a Deal.'' Since then I have suffered through a series
of successively smaller kitchens that all had 24-inch-wide
cooktops, on which I was constantly shuffling pans. It was
like going for a pleasure drive in a Mini Cooper.
By comparison, my white-paneled Chambers,
with its scuffed chrome stovetop and glass shelves built onto
its deluxe high back, is like cooking on an old Packard. It
has seven main features. There is the pop-up In-a-Top broiler
(''eliminates 'broiler crouch,' '' claims the old Chambers
ad copy), the upper surface doubling as the In-a-Top griddle.
The stovetop has a set of three slightly degraded cast-iron
burners and something called a thermowell, a 13-inch-deep
covered hold that acts as a second oven for ''waist-high baking''
in the original Wearever pots. (Alas, they are gone.) And
there is a thermobaker, a warming cabinet, next to the oven
A full-fledged Chambers convert, I began
to pant over Internet sites that said things like ''Order
the Old Road Home fall 1997 issue featuring the fascinating
history of the Chambers range plus don't miss the new upcoming
Chambers feature in the Old Road Home winter 2001 edition.''
I became dangerous to sit next to at a dinner party.
The oven, it must be admitted, is rather
small -- just 12 inches high by 18 inches wide by 17 inches
deep. Didn't housewives in the 40's ever cook a goose or have
to prepare a standing rib roast? I was showing my neighbors
the stove, and they were impressed by the look, the gravity
of it, but just stared at the oven door. We decided it would
be too small for today's enormous Thanksgiving turkeys. They
offered to let me cook my turkey at their house.
The Chambers is a gas-burning range, of
course, and requires a match to light. And because it came
with the house, I don't have to bring it up to code with electronic
ignition and other retrofits -- as long as I don't move it.
I approach my Chambers with humility, stick match in hand,
fearing I will blow up the house if I don't get the hang of
those shiny, heavy knobs and safety switches.
Luckily, my neighbor Steve had rented the
first floor of this house before I bought it. He has already
given me one stove tutorial, and I'll probably need another
before I try to bake a soufflé. ''I absolutely love
that stove,'' Steve says whenever I get him going on the subject.
But on my own, I have struggled to understand
my stove. It has no manufacturer's logo, unless it's in the
back. I know it is a Chambers only by looking at identical
models on the Web site of Antique Stoves in Tekonsha, Mich.,
where unrestored models are selling for $1,000 to $1,500.
Macy's Classic Stove Works in Houston has a stove identical
to mine for $1,750.
It's hard to make comparisons, though, because
there may be six variations on the Chambers Model B. Chambers
stoves were made in Shelbyville, Ind., from the early part
of the century through the 1950's. The company's slogan was
''Cooks with gas turned off''; turn it off and the stove's
insulation would maintain a temperature for at least half
If I ever master my Chambers I can move
on to vintage refrigerators, because when you have something
like the Chambers, you've got to design your whole kitchen
around it. So forget frost-free and ice dispensers (if they
ever worked), and put aside talk of subzero freezing and moisture-controlled
crisping. The next big thing looks definitely to be the old-style
refrigerator, the Philco, Kelvinator, Coldspot or Frigidaire,
or the Westinghouse hulk that opened with a slot-machine handle
and closed with a thunk. (And often leaked freon at the smallest
Elmira Stove Works, in Elmira, Ontario,
sells brand-new vintage-looking refrigerators for $2,700 and
a matching reproduction stove will be available next year
for $2,995. But you can also buy the real thing through the
Old Appliance Club. A 1951 Admiral in good shape was selling
recently for $500, and you could get a 1930's GE Monitor Top
covered in rust for $110. Restoring them to working order
would cost $1,500 and $2,200, but it might be worth it to
get one in mint green with a lot of Raymond Loewy chrome.
As for what my Chambers is worth, I completed
the questionnaire furnished by Antique Stoves in Michigan:
Does my stove have any chips in the porcelain? (Yes, several.)
Have the valves been taken apart and checked for leaks by
a professional? (No, probably not in 40 years.) Does the chrome
have rust? (A little.)
Ok, so maybe it's not worth $1,500 like
that one in Michigan. In fact, being dispassionate about it,
I'd have to say my unrestored, old-fashioned Chambers granny
stove is worth about $400. Not that it's for sale.