Red River Iron Furnace - Fitchburg Furnace, Fitchburg Kentucky

Date added: September 20, 2019 Categories: Kentucky Industrial Steel Mill
1973 Front view of furnace. Furnace faces east.  Cornice, which is very unusual on these structures, is plainly visible.

Designed by Fred Fitch and built by Sam Worthley in 1868, it is unique in that it consists of two furnaces in a single structure. It was built of carefully cut stone and is 65 feet high and 115 feet long. It operated from 1870 to 1874 and employed 1000 men. In 1870, this furnace produced 10,000 tons of pig iron valued at more than $60,000.

The production of pig iron was one of Kentucky's earliest industries. A major producer of iron since 1791, Kentucky ranked third in the U.S. in the 1830's and 11th in 1865.

After 1879, the industry declined due to the obsolescence of the process and the opening of the iron area in the Northern Great Lakes area. The old charcoal furnace era finally ended with depletion of ore and timber.

The date stone on the furnace reads Red River Fur. However, the book "History of Kentucky" - Judge Lewis Collins written in 1874 calls this the Fitchburg Furnace. A town of Fitchburg sprang up when the furnace was built; perhaps this is why the furnace was called Fitchburg. The furnace, to this day, is known as the Fitchburg Furnace. Nothing remains to indicate the town of Fitchburg ever existed.

This furnace was unique in that it consisted of two furnaces in a single structure. Built in 1868 of carefully cut stone, it was 65 feet high and 115 feet long. It is reputed to be the largest furnace of its type in the world. Whereas there was generally no effort made to smooth the 3 or 4-foot blocks of sandstone used to build furnaces, this furnace was unique. It was constructed of cut and smoothed stone and even had a cornice at the top which was carefully and beautifully carved. Various buildings and structures were built for the operation.

Since no maintenance has been done, considerable change has taken place. Nothing remains but the stone furnace. Even here, numerous stones have fallen, one front corner has been blasted out with dynamite, large cracks running from the top nearly to the bottom have opened up and trees are growing on the top. In back of the furnace, the fill, from which a ramp went to the top of the furnace, has slid in against the back and closed portions of the access openings.