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Remember: Lock Ridge Park (Part One)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lock Ridge Park (Part One)

One Hundred and Forty two years ago I would have encountered a much different scene in Alburtis. I would have been witness to a scene at the height of iron manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley. I would have smelled the hot blast of the furnace forging iron and heard the whistles and brakes of the Catasaqua-Fogelsville Railroad as it stopped by Lock Ridge.

From the Delaware and Lehigh Heritage Corridor:
"Construction of the Lock Ridge Iron Furnace began in 1868 during the peak of the anthracite iron industry. Utilizing anthracite coal or coke rather than charcoal as fuel, a hot rather than cold blast to speed oxidation, and a steam engine rather than bellows to force the hot blast into the furnace, anthracite iron making flourished in the valleys of the Susquehanna, Schulkill, and Lehigh Rivers from about 1840 to 1890. Lehigh Valley was the most important center of the industry. The Lock Ridge Furnace continued to operate until after WW I, long after most other furnaces had succumbed to competition from major firms using modern equipment. The site was restored as a park and museum in the early 1970s. The furnace now consists of the furnace room, engine room and cast room of Furnace No. 7; the former weighmaster's house; the oil house; partial ruins of Furnace No. 8 and its associated buildings; the carpenter's shop; the blacksmith shop; and the piers for the trestles which received railroad cars carrying materials. The Lock Ridge complex is one of only two remaining furnaces of the many that were in operation in central and eastern Pennsylvania in 1876."

Long after the fall of anthracite, Lock Ridge is a much different place. The furnace itself was made a park in 1976 and what was left of the last anthracite using iron furnace was preserved.

This was my first visit to Lock Ridge and I had no idea what was waiting for me there. I truthfully knew nothing of the Lock Ridge Furnace or of the Iron Company. My local history knowledge mostly pertains to the city of Allentown. I was glad to be joined on my journey to two natives of the area, my friends Abby Weiner and Eric Yenser.

Abby and Eric were able to show me around and make sure I didn’t miss any of the major sights worth seeing and at Lock Ridge Park, there certainly are a lot of them.

With the silence of snow and winter, the old structures seemed ominous with their deep gray pulling the coldness of the sky into stone. Here, I stood in the ruins of the sort of business that put the Lehigh Valley on the map. Without the iron and the anthracite, the Lehigh Valley would be a much different place today.

The main structure of the Furnace has been restored as a museum. At the time of my visit, the museum was closed and I was unable to take a tour. I intend to return for one in the near future.

Near the plant, over the old Catasaqua-Fogellsville rail line,

are former schoolhouses.

In truth, even with a blanket of snow on the ground, there is something to see everywhere one looks in Lock Ridge Park. There is a large map to identify the remaining structures.

With nothing but the frigid silence I could not help but imagine the sound of steam, the sound of metal clanging against metal. I tried to hear the yells of sweaty, soot covered workers.

Beyond the Furnace, Lock Ridge Park is full of the natural world. The Swabia Creek runs through here and there are trails that head into the surrounding young forest.
Tomorrow, I will share the stories of that part of Lock Ridge Park as well as the story of my dumb ass falling through the ice into the Swabia.



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