THE IRON INDUSTRY


Cold Spring Area

The Wappinger tribe roamed the area for centuries.

Cold Spring is the site of the West Point Foundry. Here there are numerous springs that provided cold, fresh water to the area. One of these, Margaret’s Brook, provided power for the West Point Foundry, the nation’s biggest ordnance factory of the mid-19th century. The foundry turned Cold Spring from a tiny hamlet into a thriving village.

In the 1730’s, a farmer named Thomas Davenport became the first settler.

During the American Revolution, part of George Washington’s main army camped here. It is Washington who is credited with popularizing the name Cold Spring after he had a drink during one of his visits.

The War of 1812 motivated President Madison to select four sites in the nation for a federally subsidized foundry. In 1817 General Joseph Swift approached enterpreneur Gouverneur Kemble with a proposal for the establishment of a foundry. By 1818 the West Point Foundry was incorporated with Kemble in charge. The foundry cast the engine for the first American-made locomotive, the Best Friend. (Dunwell 1991:71-72)

Kemble provided housing for his mainly Irish Catholic workers, schools and a Catholic Church, the Greek Revival Chapel of Our Lady (constructed in 1828 on the shore of the Hudson in Cold Spring). The church was restored and reopened in 1977 for peoples of all faiths.

The Blue trail. There are tailings of an abandoned mine on the right. These mines provided ore to the West Point Foundry at Cold Spring.

In 1848, the railroad came through, further enhancing the community.

In the 1860s, five mines operated on Sunken Mine Mountain. Known as the Canada Mines Group, the largest was the Sunk or Steward Mine, 1,500 feet long and 300 feet deep. Odelltown, an entire community, flourished on Canopus Creek at the foot of Sunken Mine Mountain. A railroad on site transported the ore to NY 301 where horse and wagon carted it to the foundry at Cold Spring and then by barge to New York City.

The Foundry supplied most of the heavy cannon, including the famed Parrott Gun, used by the Union army during the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln visited here in 1862 for an inspection of the Foundry.

Robert P. Parrott is known to many Civil War artillery researchers and collectors for his inventions of the projectile and cannon which bear his name. Born in Lee, New Hampshire, October 5, 1804, Parrott graduated 3rd in his class at West Point Military Academy in 1824. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery and was assigned to the southeastern states where he participated in the Creek Indian War.

He was later assigned as assistant to the Chief of the Ordnance Bureau and, later, as an inspector of ordnance at the West Point Foundry at Cold Spring, New York. The foundry was a private firm and administered by civilians. Parrott, by this time a captain, resigned his rank and accepted the civilian position of superintendent of the foundry, October 31, 1836.

Parrott served the foundry well during the next 41 years. He became the lessee and operator of the foundry and experimented with the manufacturing of artillery. As a private citizen Parrott was able to experiment with cannons and projectiles without the usual red tape involved in government foundries. To test the effectiveness of his new cannon, he shot at Crow's Nest and Storm King across the river.

His accomplishments during his tenure included the perfection of a rifled cannon and its corresponding projectile (both named after him) patented in 1861, and the Parrott sight and fuze which were developed during the Civil War years. The fact that his foundry was used to manufacture his weapons is proved by the letters WPF (West Point Foundry) found on the Parrott gun tube, along with his initials RPP.

Parrott's cannons were distinguished by a single reinforcing band around the breech of the iron tube. His first rifled cannon design, a 10-pounder (2.9-inch calibre), was turned out in 1860. By the next year he had developed the 20-pounder (3.67-inch calibre) and 30-pounder (4.2-inch calibre) versions, among other models. In 1864 the 3-inch Parrott rifle replaced the 10-pounder (2.9-inch calibre) rifle.

In 1867, Parrott turned the operation of the foundry over to other parties, but he continued to experiment with projectiles and fuzes until his death on December 24, 1877. (by Jack Melton, http://www.cwartillery.org/parrott.html)

An 1824 West Point graduate, Parrott resigned his captaincy in 1836 to become superintendent of the West Point Foundry. His patent for reinforced cast iron cannon was granted in 1861; a true patriot, Parrott did not take advantage of the government during the crisis, but arranged that the Foundry would manufacture and sell the cannon on a cost recovery basis. Such was his rectitude that, in a period when the government was being imposed upon by purveyors of shoddy on all sides, he was entrusted with the inspection of his own cannon, and the wisdom of that trust was never questioned. (http://www.cwartillery.org/afammen.html)

Jules Verne chose the West Point Foundry as the place of manufacture for his fictional projectile that would journey into outer space in his "Trip to the Moon."

As the century waned, so did the Foundry, which closed in 1911.

In 1973, the village center was designated a federal historic district. Today the mix of historical sights, antique and specialty stores, restaurants, access to hiking trails and splendid views has made Cold Spring a growing attraction for residents and visitors alike.


Foundry Museum

63 Chestnut Street, Cold Spring, Putnam County, NY10516 - (914)265-4010


Open all year, Sunday 2-5, Tuesday 10-4, Wednesday 10-4 and Thursday 1-4, or by appointment.


Features of the Museum: