Saturday, September 2, 2017

Two Restored Fayette County Iron Furnaces

Today I drove down to Ohiopyle for their Music In The Mountains festival. It turned out to be a cold and rainy day so I didn't stick around. It also wasn't a good day for trekking through the woods. I decided to drive down to Wharton Furnace and look around there, and on the way home I stopped at the Mt. Vernon Furnace to look at the new signage the Bullskin Township Historical Society just put up. Both sites are incredible examples of restored iron furnaces. Mt. Vernon is especially impressive as the Historical Society has spent a lot of time and effort on the furnace. 



Wharton Furnace 



Wharton Furnace was in operation from 1839-1873. Construction of the furnace was started in 1837 by Congressman Andrew Stewart. Initially the furnace went out of blast before 1850 and was still abandoned in 1855. The Civil War caused the furnace to be re-fired to produce cannonballs for the Union Army. The site was restored in 1962 by the PA Bureau Of Forestry and the Dept. Of Conservation and National Resources. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Another interesting feature at the site is an iron ingot that was produced by the furnace. 


To reach the furnace, take Route 40 east of Uniontown and turn right on Wharton Furnace Road. The site sits at the intersection of Wharton Furnace and Shephard Roads in Farmington.




The following two photos are courtesy of the Fayette County Historical Society


Andrew Stewart, builder of the furnace.

Wharton Furnace, date unknown, from the 1932 book
"Fort Necessity and Historic Shrines of the Redstone Country".


The following are today's photos:



The furnace facing Shephard Road. Also visible on this side is the wheel pit which has also been restored. It looks like sometime later, perhaps during the Civil War, the furnace was altered to a hot blast. That's going off the vintage photo of the furnace.

The arch on the wheel pit side. The vintage photo looks like this side was used for casting. This part is a little confusing to me.

The wheel pit.

The hill to the left would be where the furnace was charged from.

This would be the work arch.

The large ingot produced at the furnace.

This is the side that shows the blasting machinery in the vintage photo.

Closeup of the stonework.

Looking from the charging side of the furnace.




Mt. Vernon Furnace




The Mt Vernon Furnace was constructed in 1801 by Isaac Meason. Meason also constructed, among others, the very difficult to access Ross Furnace in New Florence. Like Wharton Furnace, Mt. Vernon was a cold blast, charcoal fueled furnace. Iron produced here was used to make ingots, utensils, kettles and other products. The goods were then carried to Connellsville and shipped down river. Some going as far as Louisiana. The furnace went out of blast in 1830. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 6, 1991. Since 1996, the Bullskin Township Historical Society has been doing an incredible job preserving the furnace and collecting artifacts related to its history. They also keep a small museum on site with limited hours. See their website for more information. 



To reach this furnace take Route 982 North off Route 119 at the Sheetz. Go about four miles and make a right on Eutsey Road. Turn right on Park Road and the furnace is right there.

The incredibly restored Mt. Vernon Furnace. To the left is a restored casting house.

A beautiful place to visit.

The new interpretive signs.

There is a third sign that for some reason I didn't photograph. I don't know what I was thinking.... There's also a model iron works display showing how everything worked. I guess you'll just have to stop out and see it!

The restored casting house.

The furnace was charged from the hillside on the right.

The charging side of the furnace.

The work arch from inside the restored casting house.


 The following are some more older photos of these two iron furnaces. Photos and drawings courtesy of Ray Washlaski.


Wharton Furnace

Wharton Furnace. Visible in this photo are the charging house, bridge house, mechanical blast equipment and portions of the wheel house and casting house.

Wharton Furnace drawings by Ray Washlaski

Mt. Vernon Furnace prior to restoration.

Mt. Vernon Furnace in the 1800's.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Laurel Furnace

Today seemed like a great day for some preseason site locating. I wasn't expecting much because everything is still overgrown. That really didn't matter much in this case. I was able to locate the New Laurel Furnace along an extremely rough road, in state game lands, in a very isolated section of Dunbar Township. The only real vegetation were mountain ferns and trees, so everything was pretty clear at the site. The day was cool enough to keep the snakes at bay too. 

Located along Morgan Run, the New Laurel Furnace was constructed, (according to the Second Geological Survey) in 1827 or 1828 by James Paull and Sons. In 1834 it was sold to David Kaine, who ran it until 1838. The furnace is roughly 190 years old. The New Laurel Furnace is located about 1 1/4 miles downstream (Morgan Run) from the "Old" Laurel Furnace. The original Laurel Furnace was constructed in 1794 or 1797, depending on the resource, by Joshua Gibson and Samuel Paxson. It was later sold to Reuben Mochabee and Samuel Wurtz, operators of the Hampton Forge (ca. 1800), located along the Indian Creek, a half mile from the Youghiogheny River. The original furnace was blown out in 1812 and its stone was used to build the New Laurel Furnace. That makes the furnace stone itself around 220 years old. The Hampton Forge lasted until 1825. 

This is one of the nicer furnace sites I've found. Three sides of the furnace are intact, as well as what I am assuming was part of the structure that held the water wheel. Stones are still intact along the mill race and this site is a slag collectors dream. 

Located right off the road. This is New Laurel Furnace today.

Still very much intact, but it's starting to show its age.

To the right of the furnace is the structure I believe may have been part of the water wheel. The race is between the furnace and this structure. It still contains water and sections of the water are red from iron.

This corner is still incredibly intact.

The structure I believe once held the water wheel. This is side facing the furnace.

The tuyere arch where the bellows would have blown air into the furnace. This arch is approximately 8 feet wide at the bottom and 12 feet high.

The bottom inside of the arch.

Looking at the wheel pit from the arch.

You can see the intact stone along the race.

Huge pieces of cut stone that have fallen down from the furnace.

This would have been the side where the furnace was tapped and where the iron flowed. Only one side of the arch remains.

You can partially see a section of the stack that is hidden behind the debris. I wasn't climbing these rocks. Mountains and large rocks = rattlesnakes.

You can see a little bit more of the stack here.

Trees growing out of the side of the furnace. Nature is slowly reclaiming these.

Notice the stone to the right slowly pulling away.

The top of the intact arch.

The back side of the possible wheel structure. Notice how the stone is perfectly shaped.

Furnace slag everywhere! Nice and shiny.

Another view of the corner.

Huge cut stone always makes me drool. I doubt that will ever change.

The ground at this corner has eroded enough that the footers this whole massive structure rests on are exposed.

A couple closing views. What an incredible furnace.

Such incredible stonework.

After leaving the furnace, I drove down the road along Morgans Run and came across this waterfall. After asking around a little bit it turns out its name is Blue Hole. You can jump off the cliff into the hole or slide down the falls. I didn't do either.

A little further down, Morgans Run passes under the Great Allegheny Passage before emptying into the Youghiogheny River.