MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (4/19/13) – Every day, hundreds of TVA employees, local residents and local hunters travel past what may be one of Kentucky’s most unique, yet largely neglected, historical sites.
Recently, several friends on Facebook began comparing notes for lore, and pictures of the large four or five story 1850s furnace, built by a man that would become Scottish nobility, and a founding father of what is now a booming Kentucky horse industry.
Earlier this month, several Airdrie preservationists hiked the sometimes hazardous trail to the furnace, which sits within yards of the Green River. This trip was different though. This time Rachel Kennedy, the Executive Director of Preservation Kentucky ( www.preservationkentucy.org ) also trekked to the site.
Kennedy stressed to SurfKY News that this is only a very small first step. A number of factors will have to come together if some way is to found to bring new life to Old Airdrie. Kennedy emphasized that although her initial inspection of Airdrie was just that, she did note that she was impressed with its relatively good condition, considering its exposure to the elements for over 160 years.
"It's obviously an amazing example of iron ore production in Kentucky, especially in the western part of the state. It's a really amazing building, and Robert Alexander is a very important figure in the history of 19th century Kentucky." Kennedy noted.
Kennedy was highly impressed that the furnace structure, which stands almost 5 stories tall, "is as intact as it is." She noted there are other historic furnaces throughout Kentucky. But Airdrie, she said, seems to have a "unique design. Also, many furnaces are missing bits and pieces. This one is different because it's actually two separate structures, as opposed to one."
Kennedy continued, "It's an amazing example of iron ore production in Kentucky, especially for the western part of the state. It's an amazing building, connected to Robert Alexander, a very important 19th century Kentuckian."
Airdrie was the dream of a Scotsman named R.S.C.A. Alexander. Built in the 1850s, Alexander came from his homeland with some of the finest Scottish masons. Although the 5 story solid rock furnace did not fulfill its dream of producing quality iron ore, Alexander did fulfill another dream of success in the world of horses. He moved east to Kentucky's horse country, and went on to become one of Kentucky's foremost horsemen.
As for local support, John Rogers and his brother Steve, recall going to Airdrie as small children. "It's a part of some of the 1800s history of this county," Steve Rogers said. Although he no longer lives in the county, he said he would love to be a part of helping the preservation happen.
Another Airdrie supporter, Walt Merriweather, who has lived in both Muhlenberg and Todd Counties over the years, said he also wants to see the site preserved.
Freddy Mohon of Beechmont started the ball rolling after seeing some Facebook comments of people who, like him, wanted to try to save Old Airdrie.
John Rogers noted "We just want to see this site preserved. We are hoping there is a way to work with the state or anyone who wants to help. Alexander created the horse industry, but that part of the story never came out. That's the real story.... the entire life of Alexander, including Airdrie and beyond. His life is so fascinating, and this is part of it. Currently two families own the land. There is a lot of area, and we'd like to eventually see more than just a future road going in. We hope there can be a facility that could be utilized. It could be much more than just the furnace site. But if you don't have somebody interested in taking over, to maintain and save it, then we are really running out of time." Rogers emphasized.
Editor’s Note: Please note that at the present time the property mentioned in this article is private, and permission to enter said property is required. Due to disrepair there are many hazards and dangers involved in reaching this site. At this time, it is officially illegal to trespass on this land mentioned without written permission from the property owners.
Photo provided by Paul McRee
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