The early days of our nation could be compared to the start of a marriage. At first nearly everything was needed, and with a nation what is more essential than a constant source of iron for building the infrastructure founding a new nation. The ironworks also provided a training site for skilled ironworkers forming the fundamental structure of America’s iron and steel industry.
Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is where it all began, founded in 1646 by John Winthrop. Saugus Iron Works began with English investments over $165,000 (adjusted to present values), its success paved the way lunching the American iron and steel industry.
The Iron Works was constructed 16 years after the puritans settled Boston. The skilled metallurgists John Turner and John Vinton were hired to manage the facility. Unskilled laborers were used to quarry bog ore and flux, cutting wood for making charcoal. At the time there were only a dozen up to date plants of similar scope in Europe.
It was the first ironworks on the North American continent. Seven large waterwheels were rigged to function using large wooden gears to power the entire facility. A dock was made so the facility loading the finished iron onto ocean going vessels.
The 9-acre National Park site is on banks of the Saugus River. It has a reconstructed blast furnace, forge, rolling and slitting mill, working water wheels, restored 17th century house and museum with a picnicking area.
A video is shown with a blacksmith demonstration. The museum building was created in 1917 from a chicken coop turned blacksmith shop. It had a major restoration reopening in 2007. Artifacts displayed include items recovered from excavation, with early ironwork products and a 500-pound hammer from the original forge.
244 Central Street, Saugus, MA
April through October
Open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Closed November to April
All park facilities, programs and tours are free to the public.
Saugus in a town in Essex County populated by 26,628, first settled in 1629. It is 12 miles north of Boston, and 20 miles south of the New Hampshire state line. Several brooks feed into Saugus River flowing through the town.
The town name is thought to be Native Indian meaning ‘great’ or ‘extended’. In its beginning the town had manufacturers of shoes and woolen goods. Following the civil war it was a major producer of tobacco, and cigars. It has the oldest barbershop in the country, 111 years old.
Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site a 6 hour drive of 403 miles from Rochester NY. Drive I-90 thruway to Boston Mass. Then route #1 north to Main street exit turning right following National Park Service signs through Saugus to the Iron Works at 244 Main Street.
Here’s one visitors impression of the historic site, when considering a visit.
“Great water wheels, old forges, and lovely river location.”