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KATAHDIN IRON WORKS
STATE HISTORIC SITE

Today, the skeletons of a blast furnace and charcoal kiln stand silent, lone remnants of the Katahdin Iron Works. In the past, these structures pulsed with activity as part of Maine's only nineteenth century iron works operation. Here the fires of the blast furnace flames non-stop for as long as a year at a time, glowing against the night sky. Smoke poured from this charcoal kiln and many other s like it. Mule, oxen or horse-drawn wagons rattled by constantly carrying ore, pig iron or wood.

Such sights and sounds must have seemed out of place in the Maine wilderness. Yet it was the wilderness, with its ready supplies of iron ore, fuel wood and water power that brought the iron works industry to this site.

Katahdin Iron Works operated here for a total of about 25 years between 1843 and 1890. Although isolated, it was tied closely to outside markets and technological advances in the iron industry. Its beginnings, for example, paralleled a growing demand for iron farm tools, machinery and railroad car wheels. In the end, the iron works failed when huge mill in Pennsylvania brought the nation's new age of steel.

The heart of the Katahdin Iron Works was its blast furnace where intense heat separated iron from other materials in the ore. Workers pouted ore, limestone flux and charcoal into the top of the furnace. The charcoal was then ignited from the bottom and the mixture was heated to high temperatures by a blast of air circulated through the base of the furnace.

As the iron melted, it dripped into a crucible, which held about two tons of liquid. When the crucible was filled, workers broke a clay plug in the tap hole. The liquid ran down a long trench onto the sand floor of the casting room and flowed into shorter trenches. Here, the molten iron cooled into pig iron ingots, each weighing about 80 pounds. In the 1880's when production was at a high, 18-20 tons of pig iron were produced daily.

Katahdin Iron works once had 16 charcoal kilns like the one remaining today. These kilns each burned 50 cords of wood (which took 6 days to burn and 10 days to cool) at a time and produced charcoal vital in fueling the blast furnace. Cutting and hauling wood to burn in these kilns was a major activity and employed hundreds of men. One winter, when the iron works was at the height of its operation, 400 men, using 200 horses and oxen, cut and hauled 20,000 cords of wood, a year's supply for the kilns.

From the first firing of the blast furnace in 1844 Katahdin Iron Works had to cope with its remote location and problems in smelting the local iron sulphide ore. Several different owners saw KIW through expansion and lean times. It survived destructive fires and a railroad was built to lower transportation costs. But the iron works which remained a relatively small scale, inefficiently operation, was finally closed due to outside competition. In March 1890, the Piscataquis Observer reported the end of this fascinating and unique chapter in Maine's history.

The people who opened the Katahdin Iron Works in 1843 built an iron works, town and roads in this remote location. By 1884, during the height of the KIW operation, the village had grown to include the homes of 200 workers. The 1880's also marked the beginning of the summer resort business here. Local springs, rich in iron, sulphur and other minerals, were widely advertised as health-giving and the area's scenery, outdoor sports offerings and Silver Lake Hotel became well-known.

Many townspeople moved away when the iron works and a later spool mill closed. The hotel burned in 1913. In 1927, the General Chemical Company leased Katahdin Iron Works land as a reserve source of the sulphur contained in the iron sulphide ore. General Chemical finally purchased the land in 1952, but has not yet undertaken mining operations.

General Chemical Company donated the land containing the blast furnace and one remaining charcoal kiln to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Recreation. Katahdin Iron Works was first operated as an historic site in 1965. Extensive restoration was done on the furnace and kiln in 1966.

To reach Katahdin Iron Words, take Route 11 to Brownville Junction. Drive five miles north of Brownville Junction on Route 11 and turn left at the sign for Katahdin Iron Works State Historic Site. Katahdin Iron Works is located about six miles further on this gravel road.

Beautiful scenery and numerous recreational opportunities surround Katahdin Iron Works. Among the most well-known is Gulf Hagas, a gorge 3.5 miles long through slate bedrock, Gulf Hagas is a National Natural Landmark and part of the Appalachian Trail. Nearby, the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy protects 35 wooded acres of some of Maine's oldest white pines. Known as The Hermitage, this preserve is also a National Natural Landmark.

The Maine Bureau of Parks and Recreation operates two camping parks in the area. Peaks-Kenny State Park, on the shore of Sebec Lake, is located at the end of Route 153, about six miles from Dover-Foxcroft. Lily Bay State Park is located about 8 miles north of Greenville on the east shore of Moosehead Lake.


 
A List Of Educational Information - There are a lot of things to know about the State of Maine, and Aroostook County. Below are some links to information about the largest agricultural crop in Maine, the Maine Potato. Also links about Aroostook County, the largest county east of the Mississippi covering an area larger than Rhode Island and Connecticut together.

Aroostook County, Its Only Natural - WE HAVE IT ALL!!!! PEACE AND QUIET! of our lakes, streams and of the close-knit communities, nestled within the picturesque St. John Valley. The Valley offers families a peaceful and tranquil lifestyle. EXCITEMENT AND ADVENTURE! Of our unique Acadian culture. There are beautiful museums and historical sites located throughout the valley. For the outdoor enthusiast, canoe down our expeditious St. John River. CHALLENGE AND RESULTS: Hunt for game - big and small. Tucked off by ourselves, we have managed to retain hunting and fishing territories of the highest quality.

Facts About The State - Facts, Figures and more concerning the State of Maine.

Historical Sites Throughout The County - A compilation of places, dates, times and other items of interest to see in The County when you come to visit.

Jo-Mary Lake Campground - Welcome to a unique area of North America - the KI-Jo Mary Multiple Use Management Forest. The private landowners cooperating in this program request that you read the following information. These guidelines are for your safety and will also provide for continued high quality forest resource management and recreational use planning. All rules and regulations are in effect from early May to November.

Katahdin Iron Works - A Maine Historical Site - Today, the skeletons of a blast furnace and charcoal kiln stand silent, lone remnants of the Katahdin Iron Works. In the past, these structures pulsed with activity as part of Maine's only nineteenth century iron works operation. Here the fires of the blast furnace flames non-stop for as long as a year at a time, glowing against the night sky. Smoke poured from this charcoal kiln and many other s like it. Mule, oxen or horse-drawn wagons rattled by constantly carrying ore, pig iron or wood.

The Maine Potato - An Agricultural Treat - In the two cultures where there is so much interesting potato history, the methods of planting potatoes are remarkably similar. In both Ireland, and the Andes, planting is done with what in Ireland is called the "lazy-bed" method. A four foot wide strip of earth is fertilized (manured) and a trench is dug into the sod on either side. After the seed is put on the manured strip, pieces of the sod are laid on top of the seed. With some variations, this method had prevailed in Ireland for hundreds of years, and in the Andes, for thousands of years.

Vacation Package Ideas for Northern Maine - A compilation of rates, special package deals and more for the snowmobiling enthusiast in Northern Maine

 

 

 

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