Stumbling upon this towering assemblage of rocks in the middle of a northern Valley state park would certainly baffle any casual hiker. Standing 32 feet tall, with a base almost as wide as its height, this cone-shaped structure strongly resembles an overgrown beehive. What’s more, it’s covered by a large, wooden, triangular roof on stilts. But what you’re actually looking at are the remains of a 19th-century blast furnace, which once sat at the hub of a sprawling ironworks operation.
The forested area surrounding the furnace was used for iron production since the mid-1840s. Easy access to water power, wood for coal, iron ore, and limestone all helped make the area an ideal place to churn out metal. In 1872, Connecticut native Frederick Miles built this shapely blast furnace. It was the “blast” part that made the structure special. Miles’s design sent heated air through small openings at the furnace’s base, which made the charcoal expand. This was state-of-the-art technology at the time, and resulted in more fuel for less money. The ironworks became such a success that Miles built housing for workers, an engine house, and a locomotive on the same site. The remnants of this village are still there, littered among the trees. The entire site was recognized as a National Historic District in 2007.
In 1903, the ironworks was abandoned. Iron was being mass-produced in Pittsburgh, and primitive furnaces like this one couldn’t compete. One historically minded group of people (and naming them would give too much away) recognized the importance of preserving this unique archeological vestige. Late last year, they pooled their efforts and raised enough money to build a roof over the furnace, thus protecting it from harsh weather and the erosion that comes with time.
If you think you know the whereabouts of this rocky remnant, send us your answer as a comment in the box below. The first reader with the correct response wins a prize. Good luck!
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