For Immediate Release
Riley Johndonnell, Communications Director: 415 797 0110; firstname.lastname@example.org
Highest federal recognition honors the ironworks’ significance in illustrating and interpreting America’s industrial, labor heritage
COLD SPRING (Putnam County) – The West Point Foundry Archeological Site, located in Scenic Hudson’s West Point Foundry Preserve, has been designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL). It is the federal government’s highest level of recognition for a site’s importance to understanding America’s heritage.
Scenic Hudson will celebrate the designation at a November 13 ceremony timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the preserve, which was created in 1996 to protect the extensive remains of this important ironworks that employed 1,500 people in the mid-19th century.
An industrial powerhouse
In operation from 1818-1911, West Point Foundry manufactured some of the nation’s first locomotives and iron-hulled ships, machinery for myriad industries, and pipes for municipal water systems, including New York City. It also was the leading supplier of ordnance to the U.S. Army and Navy during the Civil War, occasioning an 1862 visit to the ironworks by President Abraham Lincoln. West Point Foundry transformed Cold Spring into one of the nation’s first “company towns” by building houses, churches, and a school. It also has been recognized as one of the first U.S. industrial operations to understand “vertical integration” — controlling every aspect of the process from mining to manufacturing to distribution.
The NHL designation recognizes the site as “one of the most significant archeological properties in the country for understanding the development of industrialization in America and its impact on national events, the rise of a global economy and the cultural transformations associated with those whose labor made it possible — industrial workers and their families.”
In addition to West Point Foundry Preserve, the West Point Foundry Archeological Site includes Scenic Hudson’s Foundry Dock Park, the location of the ironworks’ loading dock on the Hudson River.
Scenic Hudson conserved remains, supported archaeological research
Scenic Hudson acquired the 90-acre site of West Point Foundry Preserve to prevent a planned hotel complex from destroying the remains of buildings representing virtually all aspects of the ironworks’ manufacturing process as well as housing for its workers. In 2013, it opened an “outdoor museum,” designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, that tells the story of the foundry’s contributions to the Industrial Revolution, its role in the Civil War, and the land’s remarkable ecological renewal.
In between, the organization sponsored eight years of on-site field research by Michigan Technological University’s Industrial Archaeology Program, which produced much new information about the foundry and played an important role in creating the preserve’s interpretive features. The National Historic Landmark application for the site was prepared by Gray & Pape Heritage Management and written by T. Arron Kotlensky, a Michigan Tech alumnus who participated in the field research. Later, as a professional archaeologist, he provided guidance during construction of the preserve’s interpretive features.
The West Point Foundry Archeological Site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. In 2019, it was recognized by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers as a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, one of only 272 such resources around the world to have earned this designation.
In addition to being a destination for understanding the Hudson Valley’s industrial heritage, West Point Foundry Preserve contains a campsite used by Indigenous people while traveling along the Hudson River. A staircase leading to the campsite features interpretive panels and affords magnificent views of Foundry Cove and the river.
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “Scenic Hudson is honored that the West Point Foundry Archeological Site has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In addition to recognizing the ironworks’ importance in understanding America’s heritage, this recognition pays tribute to our 25 years of work to ensure protection of the foundry’s historic remains, make them available for archaeological research, and interpret them in a way that brings the past alive while conserving the land’s outstanding natural beauty. West Point Foundry Preserve already is one of the region’s prime destinations. This designation should give added incentive for people to visit this special place.”
New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “I’m delighted that the West Point Foundry Archeological Site has joined the ranks of National Historic Landmarks in New York State. Scenic Hudson has done a magnificent job in preserving and interpreting the remains of this historic ironworks, allowing visitors today to understand the important role it played in growing and reuniting our nation, and providing an opportunity for future study.”
Cold Spring Mayor David Merandy said, “West Point Foundry played an elemental role in the creation of Cold Spring, and thanks to Scenic Hudson, West Point Foundry Preserve will always be available for village families and visitors to learn more about this ironworks and the laborers responsible for its century of success. The National Historic Landmark designation indicates how important it was to protect this site, whose historic features are matched by the preserve’s great natural beauty.”
National Park Service National Historic Landmarks Program Historian Dennis Montagna said,
“Designation as a National Historic Landmark is the highest honor that the federal government can bestow upon the places that have shaped the nation’s history and culture. It seems to me that our archaeological National Historic Landmarks, like the West Point Foundry, form a notable subset in this special group of places. These are hidden places whose importance is not readily apparent, which puts them at greater risk of being harmed by modern development. This designation makes us fully aware that something special, something that deserves to be protected, exists beneath the surface.”
Professor Emeritus of Industrial Archaeology at Michigan Technological University Patrick E. Martin said, “I am very pleased to witness the listing of the West Point Foundry as a National Historic Landmark, a well-deserved recognition. The site has always impressed me for its potential contribution to understanding American Industrialization, but the opportunity to conduct extensive and intensive archaeological and historical investigations also provided crucial career-building experiences for dozens of students as they participated in the research supported by Scenic Hudson as part of the preservation and management activities over the years.”