West Point Foundry Office, January 16, 1999
Just south of downtown Cold Spring is a placid wooded area that was once the site of the "deep breathing ... furnaces, and the sullen, monotonous pulsations of trip hammers"* of the well-known West Point Foundry. The foundry, which began operations in 1817 and continued through the 1880s (other industrial firms occupied the premises through the mid-20th century), was the "most extensive and complete of the iron works of the United States."* The site was chosen as one of four federally-subsidized foundry sites by President Madison in 1812 and the first director was Gouverneur Kemble, a resident of Cold Spring. Robert Parrot, also once a resident of Cold Spring, was a later director of the foundry.
The foundry in 1860 consisted of a "moulding house; a gun foundry; three cupolas and three air furnaces; two boring mills; three blacksmiths' shops; a trip-hammer weighing eight tons for heavy wrought-iron work; a turning shop; a boiler shop; and several other buildings used for various purposes."* 500, and sometimes 700 men were employed there during the 1860s, when the "Parrot Gun" was manufactured in great quantities. The gun, actually a rifled cannon, shot farther and more accurately than any other weapon at that time, and is credited for helping the Union Army win the Civil War.
Quotations marked by "*" are taken from The Hudson, from the Wilderness to the Sea, Benson J. Lossing. 1866.
Today the site is accessed from the Cold Spring train station by following the gravel path the borders the wildlife sanctuary east to the foundry. From the cove looking south can be seen the famous and restored Dick's Castle. The first building at the Foundry you will see is standing next to some great shelter, of unknown purpose to me. Only the walls of this low brick building remain. According to the Beer's Atlas of 1867, this was the site of the Carpenter Shop. It is hard to visualize, but almost the entire wooded area here was covered by the various structures of the Foundry.
Just a short distance in, one comes upon a solitary brick wall, which still has its doors, next to a small building currently being used by a boat-making organization, and the Office building of the West Point Foundry. This building dates from 1865 and is the only structure on the site that still has its roof. The office is a two-story brick building, with a central tower topped by a cupola. (The cupola has since been removed and is located near the office.) There is an addition in the rear that has lost its roof; only the walls survive. Architects in the office of Stephen Tilly (Dobbs Ferry, NY) prepared stabilization drawings for the 1865 Office building in 2003 and Scenic Hudson hired Kronenberger and Sons Restoration (Connecticut) to perform the stabilization work. Scenic Hudson will also restore and reinstall the cupola
At the top of the stony ravine is the mansion built by Hudson River School artist Thomas Rossiter in the 1860's. The house is still a private residence, but directly south of it is Boscobel Restoration, which offers fabulous views of Constitution Marsh.
There is a marked
trail on the Foundry site. Stone walls and abutments of the buildings
and railroad spur and various foundations can still be seen. The site is owned by Scenic
Hudson, and is open to the public. However, since the foundry is an active
archaeological site, visitors are asked to tread carefully, stay on the trail,
and to not disturb or remove any features. Michigan Technological University has
been conducting a series of excavations and studies of the ruins, and
plans may develop for the restoration of the Office. I volunteered three days in
each of the 2007 and 2008 field school seasons; the field reports can be read here
West Point Foundry Office, April 14, 2007.
MORE WEST POINT FOUNDRY PHOTOGRAPHS:
This page copyright © 2008 by Robert J. Yasinsac.
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