At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in Pittsford with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

We are going to learn all about the early iron industry here in Pittsford, but also in Vermont. So we’re going to go down to the Pittsford Historical Society, and we’re going to go see Steve Belcher and Bill Powers, who will tell us all about it, introduced Perkins.

There were local iron industries all over Vermont at the time, and in 1797, a person named Israel Keith built the first furnace at Furnace Brook, where he could harness water power to blow air into it and where the resources were there. There was iron in the area. There were lots of woods to make into charcoal to burn and melt the iron ore, explained Belcher.

“Over time, Israel Keith sold the furnace to a Mr. Gibb, who then sold the furnace to the Grangers. The Grangers really defined the iron industry in Pittsford because they had an establishment going where the furnace produced cast iron or pig iron, and then they had a foundry nearby where they began making stoves. They had houses for the workers. They had an entire community built up around the furnace. Somewhere in there, the railroad arrived and that made transportation a lot easier. The Granger Stove Company began shipping stoves all over New England,” explained Belcher.

“The Granger Company went out of business and the furnace was taken over by a Mr. Pritchard. It was under Mr. Pritchard that it closed because the economics of running a small local furnace was no longer working. People like Cooper Hewitt or the Pittsford steel industry had essentially out-priced everything.”

“There was a story that the reason it closed was because everybody fell asleep and let the fires run down, leaving the furnace essentially plugged up with a large thing of metal. Even so, it did happen that the fires died and the metal congealed and after that, the furnace was inoperable,” concluded Belcher.

“Right here in the historical society we have a number of stoves. I think if you want to take a look at those, that’s the primary product here. And we have five of them here in the historical society,” added Powers.

“Bill, how can people visit and learn about the Pittsford iron industry today?” asked Perkins.

“The best place to come is right here in the Pittsford Historical Society. We have great displays. We have artifacts, and we’re open every Tuesday from 9 AM to 4 PM. It’s not only that, if they want to see other items of Pittsford history, this is the best place to be,” said Powers.

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