Sunday, October 3, 2010

Weather Vanes and Lightning Rods

In the United States, the pointed lightning rod conductor, which is also called a "lightning attractor" or "Franklin rod," was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1749 as part of his groundbreaking explorations of electricity.  Franklin speculated about lightning rods for several years before his kite experiment. This experiment took place because he was impatient of waiting for Christ Church in Philadelphia to be completed so he could place a lightning rod on top of it.

In the 19th century, the lightning rod became a decorative motif. Lightning rods were embellished with ornamental glass balls. The ornamental appeal of these glass balls has also been used in weather vanes. The main purpose of these balls is to provide evidence of a lightning strike by shattering or falling off. If after a storm, a ball is discovered to be broken, the property owner is to check the building, rod, and grounding wire for damage.

A weather vane is an instrument for showing the direction of the wind. They are typically used as an architectural ornament at the highest point of a building.

Our house was built in the 1850's.  It comes with two weather vanes complete with glass balls.  They both are identical. One is in the back of the house, the other at the front.  They both actually are lightening rods, and are connected to many other lightning rods which are distributed all over our house.  The house is configured with a complex lightning conductor protection system, with multiple conductive paths from the roof to the ground.  The people who built our home where not going to let it be destroyed by lightning.

Front Lightning Rod

Front Lightning Rod

Rear Lightning Rod

Rear Lightning Rod
Rear Lightning Rod

Rear Lightning Rod, taken from roof, looking out over back yard

Front Lightning Rod, taken from roof, looking out over front drive

Two lightning rods atop fireplaces (one fireplace is on far roof and cannot be seen from this view - every main room has it's own fireplace)


Farm Girl said...

I did not know that about lightening rods nor the glass balls. From the top of your roof looking down in your yard it looks so neat. You are so blessed to live with such history all around you. I still am fascinated by your grave yard. I love how you have woods.

That is neat to all of the fireplaces.
Do you use them all?

I like touring your property. I just have lots of dirt. :)

Razzberry Corner said...

Hi Kim, Yes, I love history, too. I'll tell you some more history from the photos in this post: If you look at the picture of the rear lightning rod looking out over the back yard, look for the big clump of vines in the backyard outside the first fence. That used to be the smokehouse, where the people in the 1800's used to smoke their deer meat. There was a fire prior to us buying this house and the smokehouse was burnt down (no, it wasn't caused by lightning!). There's only charred remains left, which now are overgrown with vines. To the left of the smokehouse, left of the gate, outside the photo, is where the historic chicken coop used to be, and to the right of the smokehouse is the ice cellar, which is still there.

Just a little bit more history for ya! I am fascinated by it, too!!! Have a nice dinner today!


Poconoangel said...

Your lightning rod balls are in tact so I guess you've not been hit --ever! But I have one question. How did you get those pictures from up there?!

CeeCee said...

They are so beautiful in their simplicity!

Verde Farm said...

What a cool post. I didn't know all that about lightning rods and weather vanes. I particularly didn't know the glass ball piece. How neat that you live in a house with all the lightning strike protection. What history. The rods are beautiful and the pictures you shared of them--terrific. I love the one looking out over your wonderful back yard. I love historical places :)

Dog Trot Farm said...

My question too, were you on the roof taking those pictures? Lots of lightening rods here in New England, but have never seen the glass balls before. Very interesting post, thanks for sharing.

Terry said...

Love your lightening rod/weather vanes! Really nice.

Toni aka irishlas said...

I've never seen lightening rods like this before. On my old house years ago we just had simple spikes with copper ground wires. And, I might add, they worked!

I don't see many of them left here in Carroll County and I never see them on newly constructed houses. Wonder why?

Leigh said...

We have lightening rods too but nothing near as pretty as yours. Ours are more like the one by your chimney. We ponder whether or not they are necessary any more, especially since we've replaced the knob & tube wiring.

AJ-OAKS said...

Wow!!! Original lightning rods!! Now that is way cool. Very much looking forward to hearing more history about your place.

Lee said...

Love the lightning rod pictures. You guys are so fortunate to have an old house with so many beautiful original features intact.

I grew up in a MidWest house with a big lightning rod, but I don't think I've seen one out here on the West coast. It rains all winter, but lightning is extremely rare.

Razzberry Corner said...

Barb - I guess because the glass balls are intact the house has never been struck by lightning! There are alot of tall trees around the place, they get hit by lightning sometimes! Remember the fire a few weeks ago?! The pics were taken from up on the roof!

CeeCee - They are!

Amy - Thanks. I love history. Because I live in this old house I am constantly learning little things about history! I'll keep sharing with my blog buddies!

Julie - Randy took those pics when he was up on the roof. Last weekend was roof repair day!

Terry - Thanks!

Toni - Your lighning rods on the former house actually were struck by lightning? You'll have to tell me about that! I've seen so many lighning rods, but never actually knew anyone who's house was struck by lighning!

Leigh - it seems there are many opinions on whether lightning rods really work or not. All I know is that I've seen recent damage from lightning to many of tall trees around the property. And, In the past 2 years that I've lived in a house with lightning rods, lightning has never been attracked to the rods. Since the glass balls are intact, it appears lightning has never been attracked to the house at all. Which is fine by me!

Cindy - I will try to show the historical side of this place more!

Lee - Yeah, it's funny how the weather is so diffent in different locations. The east coast gets their spring thunder storms, as a child I used to look forward to them because I knew that meant spring was on it's way. Out there in Oregon everything is so different, I'm still learning about it. We go out to Oregon as often as we can to visit Randy's family. I love how it doesn't get as cold there. And I love the fog. And the trees... I agree, we are fortunate to have the old house with the history, but with it comes alot of work, repairs, renovations, goes on it on. So many times I wished I lived in a nice new house which had no problems!


Chai Chai said...

Those are magnificent, they have to be collector items.

Knatolee said...

Love your lightning rods! Ours are nowhere near as ornate.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Being a California girl all my life I've never seen a lightning rod, so this post was quite an educational one for me. Thanks for the lesson.