Do Old Stone Homes Keep Their Cool?

old stone home, York, Pennsylvania

German vernacular stone home, circa 1824, York, Pennsylvania

We love to wax romantic about old stone homes and for good reason – they’re gorgeous! But in doing so we may sometimes perpetuate a big myth — that, thanks to those thick stone walls, old stone homes stay as cool as cucumbers on the hottest summer days.

Sorry to burst the bubble, but the truth depends in some circumstances on a home’s location and a scientific principle called thermal mass (building material’s ability to store heat).

An old stone home with very thick walls works well in a region of the country where temps fluctuate significantly from day to night. Think sunny Southwest. Here’s how it works:

The sun rises in the morning and its rays reach the earth, heating the outer layer of a home’s stone walls, which, in the a.m., are cool to the touch thanks to chilly night air. Because of stone’s density, heat seeps through the wall VERY slowly, so that by the time the sun sets, heat is just starting to reach the home’s cool interior. Bravo! That bit of warmth inside feels great when the night air turns chilly. When morning arrives and the sun rises again, interior warmth has dissipated, exterior walls are cool again and the process starts all over.

Old stone homes may be bad news in areas of the country where, during the summer, nighttime temps don’t drop dramatically and a cooling effect never occurs. Your home takes on the temperature of the surrounding environment and holds it — yikes — like a big ol’ bake oven! The solution comes in the form of insulation, placed somewhere inside the stones walls, energy efficient windows and an effective HVAC system.

Own an old stone home? Struggle to keep interior temps comfortable in the summer? Tell us your story!

Dreamy Stone Cottages

Dreaming of a tiny stone cottage befit for a fairy tale? The Cotswalds and Irish countryside don’t lay claim. We found some lovely little gems right here in the States! Take a peek and tell us which one fits your vision.

Park-Like Setting in Pennsylvania


Delta, Pennsylvania, is the location of the historic Ox Bow House, a circa-1800 stone cottage that was once part of the Castle Finn iron forge plantation. The fieldstone home is nestled on over 30 park-like acres of lush farmland and boasts a large walk-in fireplace and original slate roof. An added bonus: Muddy Creek cuts right through the property, offering the new owner opportunities for fishing, kayaking, gemstone panning and more.

Classic German Architecture in New Jersey

old stone cottage, Long Valley, New Jersey
Built in 1782, this cottage sits on a quiet lane in the colonial-era town of Long Valley, New Jersey. The town, founded by German immigrants and originally coined, “German Valley,” boasts fine examples of German colonial architecture (i.e. amazing old stone homes). This adorable cottage is surrounded by gardens and outbuildings and also boasts lovely wide-plank pine flooring.

Lovely “Luxe”-Style Cottage in Iowa

old stone cottage, Stone House Bakery, Bellevue, Iowa
We head to Iowa to see the third stone cottage, a circa-1875 structure that originally served as a boys’ school. The humble stone home is located in the village of St. Donatus, a farming community founded in 1846 by Luxembourg immigrants and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home is fashioned from locally sourced limestone and features white pine floors and 12-foot ceilings.

Pave Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot

That’s exactly what a company called Hillwood Enterprises LP would like to do in Lower Swatara Township in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The company is attempting to rezone 500 acres of what is now some of the most picturesque farmland in the area and replace it with a mega warehouse, in and out of which hundreds of trucks would travel per day.

And right in the center of this parcel of land? You guessed it: An old stone home, now slowly fading away. Sadly, this home was once a stunning mansion, built by one of the earliest settlers of Dauphin County.

Residents who surround the property have banded together in an effort to sway local commissioners and stop rezoning. To learn more about the stone mansion and what an industrial warehouse might do to the environment and the community, please visit the Save Lower Swatara Agriculture blog. If you live in the area and wish to protect vanishing Pennsylvania farmland, please show your support by joining the Save Lower Swatara Agriculture group on Facebook and signing the petition to stop the rezoning. And, last but not least, if you have super-deep pockets (all the Jay Zs and Bill Gates of the world), consider buying the land and preserving it for future generations.

Old Stone Homes in the News

Three properties popped up in the news this week: one in desperate need of repair and two others of historic significance. Let’s take a look.

A Stone Home in Danger
Lapole Tenant House, Farmlands estate, Cantonville, Maryland
The Lapole House (Lurman House) in Catonsville, Maryland, may not look like much at first glance. The boarded-up stone cottage is located on the grounds of Catonsville High School but was once part of a much larger estate. The story starts with Edward Dorsey, who gave the name “Farmlands” to the area in the late 1700s. He passed the large tract of land to his son, Hammond, who built a mansion on the site in the 1790s. In 1820 the house with six hundred acres was sold to Henry Sommerville, who renamed it “Bloomsbury Farm”. In 1848, Gustav W. Lurman, Sr. purchased the estate and restored its original name. The Farmlands estate passed down through the Lurman family until 1948 when Miss Frances D. Lurman sold the last 65 acres to the Board of Education. The main house and most outbuildings were demolished in 1952 to make way for the high school. The tenant or gardener’s cottage, once the home of estate caretakers Charles and Ida Mae Lapole, is all that remains today. Local resident Jim Jones is raising awareness in hopes that the cottage can be saved from the ravages of time, weather and vandalism.

A Stone Home That Needs an Owner
Stone mansion, Fieldston Historic District, Bronx, New York, old stone home
It’s a mansion in fine condition. The only thing lacking is an owner. And for $3.7 million the home could be yours! Located in Fieldston, a privately owned neighborhood in the Riverdale section of the northwestern part of the Bronx, this 100-year-old home of solid fieldstone construction features eight spacious bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, a formal dining room and a renovated eat-in kitchen. The Craftsman-style home, designed by architect William B. Claflin and built for Columbia University professor George B. Pegram, sits at the top of a 1/2-acre sloping, terraced lot and exists within the Fieldston Historic District.

A Stone Home That Wants to Tell Its Story
River Street neighborhood, old stone home, sandstone, Boise, Idaho, Erma Andre Madry Hayman
The 900-square-foot home at 617 Ash Street in Boise, Idaho, was once surrounded by timber-framed homes in a bustling neighborhood coined River Street. Built in 1907 of sandstone, the house became home to Erma Andre Madry Hayman and her husband Lawrence in 1943. Erma raised a large family in the small home and lived to the ripe old age of 102. After her death in 2009, grandson Richard Madry sold the house and property to the Capital City Development Corporation. Hopes are to protect the home via a National Trust for Historic Preservation designation and learn more about the vibrant multicultural working class community via an archeological dig at the homesite, led by the University of Idaho field school.

The Federal-Style Stone Home

After the American Revolution, we strayed somewhat from the Georgian home style. It’s hard to blame Early Americans, fresh off the battlefield and not so keen on building homes taken from the pages of English pattern books.

Fort Hunter Mansion, Front Entrance, Federal style stone mansion, old stone home, Harrisburg, PA, colonial homeThus emerged the “Adam” style, made famous by Scottish architects Robert and James Adam, brothers who designed large country estates in England, circa 1750- 1800. Once word spread to our side of the pond, the name was surreptitiously changed to “Federal” and a truly American architectural form was born.

The Federal style borrows the Georgian adherence to Roman classical design; the center hall, symmetrical design elements and side-gabled roof all remain. The styles diverge by way of formal features: Think delicate, sophisticated ornamentation, a front door fanlight window, three-part or Palladian windows with curved arches and curving or polygonal window projections.

Fort Hunter Mansion, located along the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, provides a fine example of Federal style. Built with stone quarried locally, the home boasts refined details that would have showcased its owners’s wealth and position in society.

A Sane Way to Save a Neglected Stone Home

Something about underdogs and things on the verge of extinction speak to me. Even when things look bleak, shouldn’t we always cling on to that last kernel of hope?

When I see a dilapidated stone home, I see only the possibilities, where others see only “money pit”. Are these love pangs just a flight of fancy? Sometimes I wonder. But then the logical side of me jumps immediately to the defense. If it weren’t for the dreamers, we’d have no Monticello, no Grand Central Station … no lasting historical monuments. Nothing but parking lots and convenience stores.

And so this story of a Germantown, Wisconsin, couple really speaks to me. They went about their daily lives, content to live in their 1970s ranch-style home. Until, one day, on a commute to work, they noticed something: an old stone home. Sure, a tree was growing up through the porch and the rubble foundation beneath the home was crumbling, but they saw only the what-could-bes. “One day, wouldn’t it be nice to live in that place?” they mused. And then, fate stepped in and placed a for-sale sign in the front yard. Eureka! The couple wacked through weeds and overgrown brush to make their way to the windows for a look inside. Love at first sight.

After taking a deep breath, they bought the property and then spent the next 25 years of their lives bringing the Greek Revival-style home back to its former glory. What a smart way to make historic preservation more bearable – both emotionally and financially. Take baby steps, do what you can, step back, reassess and pivot where needed and when your pocket allows.

Do you know someone who adopted an old stone home and worked wonders to renovate it? We’d love to hear your story!