Although few houses now NEED fireplaces as their only source of heat, from the early days of our republic until the late 19th century, fireplaces were the main cooking and heat source in most homes.
The photos above show 2 houses, the first of which, Tomahawk, was built in 1772 near Hartly, Delaware, and which has been incorporated into the life of a modern family. The second picture is from The George Read II House in New Castle, Delaware, from 1801, which is a house museum with volunteers demonstrating open hearth cooking.
Now, you might ask, "What is going on here?" And the answer would be, these are the same 2 houses, but on the basement level. Some people look at the picture on the left and say,"That must be a fireplace." But they would be wrong. That is the support arch for the hearth and chimney above. A similar situation is seen on the right on the next picture, but in front of the support arch, there is a table set for a banquet. This is to represent the period of the last private owners of the Read House, Philip and Lydia Laird, whose ownership stretched from the 1920's to Mrs. Laird's death in 1975. The story is told that during Prohibition, the family had booze flown in from Cuba. The plane would land on the Delaware River across the street from the house (doesn't everyone have a yacht and seaplane mooring in their front yard?) and the cases carried over to the Rathskeller or party room in the basement of the house. This was said to be perfectly legal because they didn't cross any state lines, and it was all for the use of their family and friends (many, many, friends).