This Place in History: Forestdale Ironworks

BRANDON, Vt.

At 'This Place in History' we visit the site of the Forestdale Ironworks with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

"We're in the village of Forestdale in the town of Brandon. We're going to talk about the iron industry in Vermont. I think when most people think of the iron industry, they think of Pittsburgh or West Virginia. But we had quite a thriving industry in Vermont," said Perkins.

Blaine Cliver is a retired architect with the National Parks Service.

"It was started, the furnace here, in about 1823. Royal Blake was the name of the ironmaster, whose house is across the street. It produced stoves and other cast iron objects for sale. A lot of people were going West and they carried them with them. Towards the 1850s, it was bought by the Green Mountain Iron Company. It operated for another five to 10 years and it went out of business. After the Civil War, they started it up again, trying to use anthracite coal. It didn't pan out because of the way the chimney is built. It went out of business shortly after that and since then, nothing's been done," said Cliver.

"There's a stone wall at the top of the slope. From there, a charging bridge went across. On the field above would be the staging area for the field and ore. It was brought across and dumped down into the top of the furnace. The roof was put on by the State to protect the top of this. Down here was a bellows; it was operated by rods that went up and down. In the wheel pit, the wheel turned and eventually through rods and such, the action operated the rods. Of course, this would blow a great deal of air coming into the furnace at the bottom. The air goes up and the fuel comes down. The fuel was charcoal. It then melted the iron ore," explained Cliver.

"I imagine 20-25 people would have been able to operate something like this," Cliver continued. "It's one of the places that it started in this country, making ironworks."

At 'This Place in History'!

For more from our 'This Place in History' series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont's roadside historic markers, click here.


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