The Forest Dale Iron Blast Furnace was an early-19th-century iron smelting facility located in eastern Brandon, Vermont. It was built in 1824 to replace an earlier furnace that was established in 1810 by John Smith to process iron ore that came from nearby ore beds, as well as from Leicester Hollow. Brown hematite ore was processed with local charcoal to produce crude or pig iron that was then cast into blocks or ingots. The iron company also cast stoves, cooking pots, chains, axes, tools, small cannons, and ornamental iron for chairs, statues, and vases. In 1845, the furnace produced 1,200 tons of pig iron in addition to 800 stove castings. Under the Green Mountain Iron Company, production was largely devoted to parlor stoves. The company enlarged the chimney stack in 1854 to burn anthracite coal instead of charcoal, but this effort failed with the competition for higher quality and more efficient furnaces able to use coal. Operations were closed in 1855, operating only once more in 1865 when 784 tons of cast iron was produced from bloomery forges. This significant industrial archaeological resource is the oldest and one of the best-preserved iron furnaces surviving in Vermont. The site is not open to the public.
The stack rises 60 feet high and is 32 feet square at the base, with a taper to the top. It is constructed on random-coursed, random-sized stone slabs. Smaller rounded arches, framed by rough cut stone voussoirs, pierce the center of the east, south, and west elevations. Each arch is eight feet wide with walls that taper inward to a depth of ten feet to the outer surface of the refractory brick bosh, which sat directly over the hearth. The larger northern arch was known as the casting arch. To the south of the furnace are the blowing bellows and the stone-lined wheel pit, which originally houses the large iron overshot wheel grabbing water from the dam upstream on the Neshobe River. The wheel was used for scrap during World War I. The northern casting arch was damaged in the early 1950s when the construction company laying Route 73 dynamited the furnace to get needed rock.
In 1974, Welland Horn donated the iron furnace along with 10 acres to the State of Vermont’s Division for Historic Preservation. An additional donation of 20 acres in 1989 from Welland Horn also included the nearby historic lignite and kaolin mines. Horn (1915-2007) was a prominent resident of Brandon, carrying on the family farm and maple sugaring business. He was bequeathed the property from his mother in 1960.
Initial clearing of the site, abandoned since the mid-19th century, were undertaken in 1989 by the state. The effort also included an archaeological study, which identified the stone foundations of worker housing and shops. In 1995, the stone structure of the furnace was repaired and stabilized, with a roof added to the top to protect it from the elements (roof replaced in 2017).
This site is not open to the public.
Phone: (802) 828-3051
Or write: Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, Attention: Historic Sites Chief, One National Life Drive, 6th Floor, Montpelier, VT 05620-1201