2004 Field School & Industrial Archaeology Project -West Point Foundry
Notes from the Foundry: Updates from the Summer of 2004
Michigan Technological University

2004 Field Crew

Overview of boring mill area

Scottie taking Munsells to record soil color

Suika taking vertical depths

Erin working on paperwork.

The West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, New York operated in the narrow valley between 9D and the Hudson River for most of a century, from 1817 until 1912. Today, the foundry's owner, Scenic Hudson Land Trust, Inc., is partnering with several institutions to learn more about that history.

One of the most active partners, especially in summer months, is Michigan Technological University's Industrial Archaeology program. You may have noticed the Michigan Tech vehicles driving through town to and from Kemble Ave. each day. Or maybe you were one of the 100+ interested visitors who braved the cool, damp weather the weekend of June 5th & 6th to check out the project. If none of this sounds familiar, let this web update be your introduction to Michigan Tech, Industrial Archaeology, and an important archaeological site right in Cold Spring.

The West Point Foundry produced a variety of iron products during the nineteenth century including steam engines, early locomotives, sugar machinery, water system valves, and of course cannons. At their peak of production during the Civil War, there were over 1,000 employees making about one million dollars worth of cannons and projectiles for Union forces. The Office Building, built in 1865, still stands on the site. At first glance, it seems to be all that remains of the complex. But in recent years, students enrolled in Michigan Tech's Industrial Archaeology Field School have shown that much more of the foundry still exists in the nearby woods.

Michigan Tech is the only graduate program in North America dedicated to industrial archaeology (exploration of the material culture of people from the industrial time-period). In a partnership with Scenic Hudson, Michigan Tech has spent the last three summers exploring the historic documents, mapping the site, and using archaeology to learn more about the foundry. The site has become a classroom for students to learn about the iron industry and about excavation techniques. This summer, about a dozen students and seven volunteers from Earthwatch Institute are investigating two areas. We have expanded excavations in the Boring Mill, where steam engine cylinders and cannon bores were finished. We are also exploring the blowing engine of the blast furnace just south of the 9D bridge.

The following webpages will contain regular updates and photographs on our progress down at the Foundry this summer written and taken by students enrolled in the field school. Michigan Tech would to encourage you to take advantage of this unique site by visiting us sometime this summer. Already this year we have seen over 50 fourth graders and 100 visitors to our first open house weekend. We welcome you to join a tour on Fridays, beginning with June 18th. In addition to the weekly tours, we will also host another "Day at the Foundry" on Saturday July 31 and Sunday August 1.

You can look forward to hearing monthly updates about our progress at the West Point Foundry site in a column in the Putnam County News & Recorder. Thanks for seeing us on the web and we look forward to seeing you at the foundry sometime soon.

Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI 49931
Email | Phone: (906) 487-2113 | Fax: (906) 487-2468