Saturday, May 31, 2008

Upper Works: A Little Adirondack History

The day trip to the the fire tower on Mt. Adams, in the Adirondacks, left me with too much to write for one post, so here's Part II...

The Mt. Adams adventure actually began with an exploration of Tahawus, sometimes referred to as Adirondac. Today, the area is referred to the Upper Works, which encompasses three trailheads on Upper Works Road that can give access to some of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. Prior to being a trail head, the area was an iron ore mining strip. Founded in 1826 by Archibald McIntyre and David Henderson with the assistance from an Indian of the St. Francis tribe.

On the access road to the East River Trailhead, stands the old McIntyre Blast Furnace. The Sackett's Harbor and Saratoga Railroad Company had anticipated extending the railways to Adirondac and the mines. Excited over the potential of having railways to the mines, the mine workers began repairing the buildings and creating a community. They built the blast furnace, at an estimated cost of $43,000, to improve efficiency and profits.

The time period around 1843 was probably the most prosperous period for The Adirondack Iron Works Company (Adirondack Mining Company) , making what was said to be the best steel producing ore in the country. Eventually the impurities, later found to be titanium dioxide, as well as the lack of adequate roadways led the Adirondack Iron Works Company to come to a screeching halt. The mining community left Adirondac, leaving the village a ghost town.

Ironically, World War II brought the need for titanium dioxide, and the Federal government extended the railways into the mining location. National Lead Industries reopened the mining site and a community was rebuilt in Tahawus, including 84 buildings, some of them from the original establishment. National Lead Industries closed the site again in 1989, leaving the town uninhabited once again. Today most of the buildings are dilapidated, barely any walls standing. The roofs are caved in, windows boarded or smashed. The ground is visible through the floor boards, the next room can be seen through the open walls. The paint is peeling, puddles formed inside where there is floor left. The front of one house remains while the rest of it exists as a pile of rubbish. These are some pictures I took while in Upper Works.

“If I had a mine shaft, I don't think I would just abandon it.
There's got to be a better way.”
~ Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy (Saturday Night Live)

The Open Space Institute purchased the land, and has begun work on the Tahawus Tract Project with the hopes of restoring and maintaining the historical features in the area, including the fire tower at the summit of Mt. Adams, the Observer's Cabin of Mt. Adams, the MacNaughton Cottage, and the McIntyre Blast Furnace.

The MacNaughton Cottage is under reconstruction by the OSI. The picture below is current, taken on May 24, 2008. The MacNaughton Cottage is significant in United States history, as this is where then Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt camped after hiking Mt. Marcy. It was during his stay at this cottage when he received the news that President McKinley suffered from a gun shot and had taken a turn for the worse, shortly before Roosevelt stepped up to his new role as President.

Reconstruction on the McIntyre Blast Furnace can be seen at the top of the furnace in the picture below.

Details of the hike up Mt. Adams, and the upkeep of the fire tower can be read about in my previous post.

To see all my pictures from Mt. Adams and the Upper Works, click here.

Information from:,_New_York


diane said...

You and EB have the BEST adventures! Stunning pictures & interesting narrative - always good stuff here.

Anonymous said...

Ooh! What fun! And what gorgeous photographs! I feel like I'm in another world! :) Thanks for sharing!

I don't know why, but I missed a few posts from you! I'll definitely have to catch up!

storybeader said...

I went to see all the pics and put lots of comments - of course. The Open Space Institute sounds like a great organization. Have to look them up. Thanks for the journey.

A Keeper's Jackpot said...

Thanks everyone!

Serendipity Collections said...

I loved reading about this piece of history! Also, loved looking at your pictures. Very interesting!


Anonymous said...

Great blog! An adventure to visit.

I LOVE this one especially, as I am a huge fan of places like you've taken us to here, a true change of seasons, the woods, mountains, streams, rivers, moss, old stone work and buildings, restoring the historic, and so much more.

I feel like I am there. I know I wish to be!


Anonymous said...

I loved the pictures of the old houses. I lived there in the late 50s until we moved in 62 or 63. I was very young. I was only 5 years old when we moved but I do remember the bears on our porch. There were several more house's but they are all gone. My father worked in the mine and rented a house in the upperworks from the mine. Thanks for the pictures. Dan P.

Lee Manchester said...

I thought you might like to know about a pair of anthologies containing historic source material and 20th century studies of the McIntyre iron works and the old Tahawus Club colony. The anthologies are available online at PDF copies can be downloaded free; print copies can be ordered at cost (this is not a commercial venture on my part).