Next he moved to the front chimney. This one was in much better condition and removing the cap went smoothly. After a cleaning of the flue for the main foyer fireplace, we were able to light a small kindling fire!!! We were so excited.
Finally we move upstairs to the other fireplace that shares this chimney. He begins cleaning the flue only to be stopped cold by a blockage. The poor guy worked for several hours trying to clear what appears to brick, dirt, and mortar dust all caked together solid about 5 feet up the flue. He could get the chimney sweep pole itself to pass the blockage, but once he attached a brush, it wouldn't budge. Here is what the blockage looks like. The red circle is the part that has been knocked clear.
To us, the blockage doesn't look intentional. It seems to break apart when struck (just not very easily). We theorize that when the upper part of the chimney was rebuilt, a few bricks fell and got lodged in the flue. Over time, we ended up with this mess.
The chimney sweep is bound and determined to clear this blockage. Hopefully he is successful and clears this flue so we can use the fireplace. If so, then we are only down one fireplace which we can work on repairing it once the weather warms a bit.