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fireplaces in old house - what kind are they & can they be used?

14 years ago

I'm looking at a house built between somewhere in the teens (1910-1920). There are two fireplaces, very small (way too small for wood logs). They each have heavy, cast iron, solid panels that fit in the opening to close them off completely.

What did these burn originally? Coal? Oil? Natural gas?

A contractor is trying to talk me into putting an UNVENTED gas stove or gas logs in these small fireplaces. I'm wary of unvented appliances. Since these fireplace worked at some time, and have chimneys, why couldn't the gas logs be vented up the chimney? (We'd be looking for charm more than a heat source.)

Has anyone with an old house turned a tiny fireplace like this into something that produces flames for a little ambiance? I'd like to hear any thoughts.

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