HOPKINS COUNTY, KY—For this week’s installment of Off the Beaten Path, iSurf News would like to present a well-hidden landmark that outdoors lovers, historians, adventure seekers, and curious locals can all appreciate: Airdrie Furnace.
Located in Muhlenberg County on a section of untamed shoreline adjacent to the mighty Green River, the Airdrie Furnace stands as a quiet testament to mid 19th Century engineering. In addition, the remains of the forest-bound historic site looks like something straight out of an Indiana Jones flick. What’s more is that the site carries behind it a history that is well worth regional interest.
The hand-built furnace tower was erected in 1855 by Sir Robert Alexander, a Kentucky-born descendant of a titled Scottish family. At a young age, Alexander purchased around 17,000 acres of land stretching along the Green River where a hefty deposit of native iron had previously been discovered. Soon afterward, Alexander employed the services of several miners and furnace workers from his family’s native Scottish lands in an attempt to develop the area. After their arrival, Alexander and his crew, which has been reported to include a number of prison workers, constructed houses for the workers as well as the approximately 70 foot tall iron-shell stack. In addition, the workers built a three-story sandstone structure made for housing furnace blast machinery and rolling mills. This housing structure still stands adjacent to the tower today and clearly displays an imprinted stone on its façade, which reads, “Airdrie: 1855.”
However, after a number of failed efforts to keep the furnace in operation, as well as an overall loss of approximately $300,000, the project and village of Airdrie (which was named after the Alexander’s Scottish homeland) were completely abandoned by Alexander and his men within a short span of just a few years.
Interestingly enough, not one single pound of salable iron was ever produced from the furnace due to the fact that the native iron ore of Kentucky required a metallurgical treatment that was unfamiliar to the Scottish iron workers.
From old-world archways, a three-story set of hand-laid stone steps, as well as the furnace tower and machinery building, visiting the now overgrown and long-abandoned structures is truly awe-inspiring.
In addition to the included photos and brief historical background, well-known local author, Lisa D. Piper, has recently released a historical fiction novel based on the area, its history, and some of the people involved. The book is entitled, “One Mile Below Paradise,” which is partially in reference to a once neighboring town to Airdrie actually called Paradise, and is now available for purchase. To purchase a copy of the book, visit www.lisapiper.com. The novel will soon be available at Readmore Bookstore in Madisonville’s Parkway Plaza Mall as well.
Historical information provided by www.oldindustry.org and www.waymarking.com.
Click on the slide-show player below for more pictures iSurf reporters captured while visiting the historic Airdrie Furnace site.
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