History and Preservation of the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring

Lost and foundry: An important historic site in Cold Spring gets a major makeover from Scenic Hudson



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west point foundry water wheelWheel of fortune: Among the preserve’s features is a representation of the 36-foot water wheel that powered machinery in the foundry’s boring mill. The site relied on a complex water-supply system to provide power

Back in business

In 1867, Parrott resigned as superintendent of the foundry, but kept experimenting with artillery shells and fuses at West Point until his death, at the age of 73, in Cold Spring in 1877. By then, innovations in iron and steel production were making the foundry obsolete, and it declared bankruptcy in 1889. It was sold in 1897 to a company that made sugar mills, but closed in 1911 and left to ruin. Leftover pollutants turned the grounds into a Superfund site until 1996. That’s when Scenic Hudson stepped in and purchased the 87-acre site and began reclamation.

In October, the $3.6-million West Point Foundry Preserve opened to the public. Many of the foundry’s ruins have been stabilized, interpretive signage was installed, and audiovisual tours are available. An easily accessible half-mile trail connects the preserve directly to the Metro-North train station at Cold Spring.

“I think it’s a perfect combination of interpretive elements, and it helps bring the foundry to life,” says Rita D. Shaheen, director of parks for Scenic Hudson. The audio narration includes experts like the noted Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. “He speaks of Lincoln’s visit there, and you can stand in about the same location where Lincoln stood,” Shaheen says.

Equally important is the recovery of Foundry Cove and the surrounding acreage. It has been replanted with native wetlands vegetation and has become a beautiful nature preserve of woods, creek, and wondrous river views. “The industrial past has once again been returned to its natural state,” says Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “It’s a beautiful place to visit in all seasons, and the site has such importance in the history of the Hudson Valley — and indeed the history of the entire nation.”

Discover the Foundry

A Web-based audiovisual tour that is accessible using many mobile devices is available at foundrytour.org. The preserve is open daily, year-round, from dawn to dusk. There is no fee to enter.

To learn more about the West Point Foundry, visit the Putnam History Museum at 63 Chestnut Street in Cold Spring. Just a short walk from the preserve, the museum is located in the former foundry school for teenage apprentices and employees’ children. A permanent installation showcases foundry artifacts, documents, and art, including John Ferguson Weir’s 1866 painting, The Gun Foundry.

 

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