We purchased "this old house" about two years ago and have been fixing things up as we go. That said, if there is something historic or unique I have a hard time just trashing it. I'd rather figure out a way to make it "work", but keep the history there.
The outdoor fireplace itself was built in around 1940 or so, about 10 years after the house was built. Someone did put some care into it as the firebox was lined with proper firebrick, not just red brick. However, years of neglect, freezing weather, encroaching soil, and so on made it a sorry sight. Water had gotten in some of the mortar joints and there were many loose firebricks. Basically, it was a broken down, unusable outdoor fireplace which had 4 inches of soil in the firebox and weeds growing in it.
For 2 seasons I mowed around with my little Kubota BX1860, and on alternate mowings I wavered between attaching the FEL (front end loader) and dismantling it versus figuring out how I could "fix" it. One day I came back inside and announced to my wife that I would fix it by building a "firepit" -- taking advantage of the now appreciable slope that was surrounding it (70 years of soil migration). She yawned. I took up the challenge.
Here it is in the distance the day we moved in (the straw is from a septic system that was just installed):
Late last fall I started on the project by scalloping out an area in front of it, making an apron for the fireplace:
Here is a close up showing the dilapidated condition:
I don't have a backhoe and I didn't want to rent a Mini-Ex for this, so mostly I "drove in" from the shallow end with the BX's front end loader:
I got a couple of pallets of fieldstone to make the walls, and moved them to the jobsite with the FEL and ballast box. This was not really as fun as it sounds.
As I went along I then discovered that at one point in time there must have been a red brick patio out in front of the fireplace. Thereafter I dug up/out about 87,000 brick chunks. It sucked.
After doing some math i decided on a level for the patio surface, and dug out to that depth:
There was a lot of elbow grease involved:
My wife congratulated me on making a fine hole in the backyard, and reminded me that it would be Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks and I needed to get a move on before the weather turned really cold:
This basically translates to, "you made a mess, when are you cleaning it up?":