Mt. Riga Blast Furnace

Source: Kirby, Ed, 1998, Echoes of Iron in Connecticutís Northwest Corner: With a Field Guide to the Iron Heritage Trail. Sharon: Sharon Historical Society


Directions:

Drive west on Factory Street/Washinee Street to Mt. Riga. The road to the mountain top generally follows Wachocasttinook Brook. Bear left on Mt. Riga Road at mile 0.7+. The road shortly changes from paved to unpaved. Continue to mile 3.2 where, on the left in the woods, are the remains of a large dam. Two finery forges with helve hammers operated below this dam. At mile 3.5 is the intersection of Mt. Riga Road and Washington Road. Directly west of the intersection is the dam holding South Pond.

Turn left to the small open field. The Riga blast furnace stands about 200 feet down the field to the left. It is the only standing cold-blast furnace remaining in Connecticut.


Geology:

Mt. Riga had four ponds that fed a single outlet, the Wachocasttinook Brook. The Salmon Fell Kill forms from the Fell Kill (now Wachocasttinook Brook) flowing from South Pond on Mt. Riga.


History:

Water rights to South Pond area first held by Thomas Lamb.

1762 -- Hazeltine, Allen and the Forbes brothers began operation of northwest CTís first blast furnace. Samuel Forbes was the ironmaster. The Salisbury Furnace was 17 miles from the big deposit at Old Hill. Lime for flux was taken from the outcrops of the Stockbridge formation. And wood for charcoal came from Mt. Riga. (Kirby, Ed, 1998, Echoes of Iron in Connecticutís Northwest Corner: With a Field Guide to the Iron Heritage Trail. Sharon: Sharon Historical Society.

1768 -- Richard Smith, a Boston merchant and fleet owner, became the major stock holder and operator of the Salisbury Furnace.

1775 -- suspected of Tory leanings, Richard Smith leaves for England.

1776 -- Connecticut forms a Council of Safety that took over management of the furnace under the direction of Governor Jonathan Trumbull. Samuel Forbes returns as ironmaster and Joshua Porter becomes the overseer. The furnace produced the iron for guns, cannon and cannon balls.

1781 -- a forge constructed at the outlet of South Pond on Mt. Riga and operated by Abner and Peter Woodin.

1801 -- Seth King and John Kelsey purchase the works.

1802 -- King and Kelsey construct the Mt Riga blast furnace. Iron ore and limestone had to hauled up the mountain.

1803 -- the Mt. Riga furnace operation goes bankrupt and closes.

1810 -- the Mt. Riga furnace put into blast (the construction work completed by Joseph Pettee and Wilaby Dexter for Joseph and Seneca Pettee and Luther Holley.

1827-28 -- the ironworks owners merge with John Milton Holley and John Churchill Coffing to form the Salisbury Iron Company. Joseph Pettee was iron master.

1830 -- Seneca Pettee moves up the valley to become the first ironmaster at the furnace at Richmond, Massachusetts.

1838 -- Joseph Pettee dies; his son William become the manager.

1845 -- the Mt. Riga Furnace rebuilt. Two finery forges constructed downstream from the furnace.

1856 -- the Mt. Rig furnace goes out of blast.

1933 -- early preservation at the Mt. Riga Furnace.

1961 -- more preservation when donations came in to finance the work of local mason Peter Brazzale.

At the Salisbury town hall, turn right on Route 44/41 (mile 8.4) and drive south. Across Route 44 is the Holley House. The original section was built by iron owner Luther Holley. One can tour the house and also visit the Salisbury Cannon Museum on the grounds.


Trails:

Drive north on Mt. Washington Road to the small pull-off at mile 4.4 at the trail to Bald Peak (noted by blue flashes on the trees). There is a 250 yard walk to the top. Here is a beautiful panoramic view. The Catskill Mountains can be seen in the west.

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