fireplace dimensions on older home...can it burn wood?
It certainly looks like either you or the previous owner burned something in that fireplace. I am unclear from your post whether you burned coal in there.
Whether a fireplace can burn wood or not is determined by the lining on the chimney. If the chimney is unlined, and not built from appropriate firebrick, burning anything would be dangerous because you could start a fire. Assuming the chimney is OK, the dimensions on the fireplace would determine the maximum size log you could burn, and how well the fireplace draws.
I suggest you hire a professional chimney inspection company to verify if the chimney is OK, and offer an opinion as to whether you can burn wood safely. If they say OK, try it, see how the fireplace draws.