The Lock Ridge Furnace Museum sits within the 59-acre Lock Ridge Park as do the remnants of the Lock Ridge Iron Works. The first furnace was built on the site in 1868 by the Lock Ridge Iron Company, which was taken over by the Thomas Iron Company the next year. The Furnace Museum offers exhibits that reveal how anthracite iron was manufactured on the site over 150 years ago and the ruins of the two furnaces and other ruins of the iron works now provide a unique backdrop for history and photography buffs alike. The park offers visitors a self-guided tour, walking trails, picnic areas and a large pavilion. The iron work remains were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Valley has a long history of iron production dating back to when charcoal was
first used as the primary fuel. However,
when large deposits of anthracite coal were discovered in the region, the
Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company moved to replace charcoal as the iron
producing fuel with anthracite coal. To
that end, they convinced Welshman David Thomas to relocate to the valley and to
bring with him his iron producing technique that utilized their large deposits
of anthracite coal. David Thomas and his
son, Samuel, arrived in 1839, quickly established the Lehigh Crane Iron Company
and helped usher in the American branch of the Industrial Revolution.
son eventually established the Thomas Iron Company in 1854 headquartered in
Hokendauqua, Pennsylvania. The company
continued to expand and acquired the furnace owned by the Lock Ridge Iron
Company in 1869. They expanded the Lock Ridge
site to include over 170 acres, a second furnace, various buildings associated
with iron production, a branch line of the Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad,
and employee housing. The company remained
a vital part of Lehigh Valley iron production until technological advancements,
the use of coke rather than coal and the arrival of U.S. Steel in 1901 and
Bethlehem Steel in 1904 brought about its demise.
at Lock Ridge managed to produce iron, the last anthracite iron furnaces
operating in the U.S., until they went cold in 1921. They, and the land around them, were then
sold to William Butz who had the iron producing facilities dismantled and sold for
scrap iron and lumber, leaving behind the still standing masonry of the
buildings and furnaces. The rail lines
were torn up in the 1940s and the Lehigh Slag Company pulled slag from the site,
for use in roofing and fill, until 1958.
The Butz family then donated the remains of the iron works and the land
to Lehigh County for use as a public park in 1972.
which is operated and maintained through a joint effort of the county and the
Lehigh County Historical Society, was opened to the public in August of
1976. Today, the hulking stone and concrete
remnants of the iron works, the nearby Swabia Creek and its pastoral setting
make the park a popular spot for wedding ceremonies, receptions, and photography. Numerous informational placards facilitate a
walking tour of the iron works and the historical society offers guided tours
on weekends from May through September.