I recently visited the Long Pond Ironworks National Historic Landmark, located in the community of Hewitt in West Milford, New Jersey (USA). If you’re in the area–or, like me, have a hidden goal of visiting as many U.S. National Historic Landmarks as you can–then I definitely recommend checking out this historic site.
The 175-acre Long Pond Ironworks Historic District is an example of the ironworks plantations established in the American Colonies prior to independence in 1776. Most notably, the village and furnaces at Long Pond (today, Greenwood Lake) were major producers of military iron throughout many conflicts, for George Washington’s Continental Army, for the American forces in the War of 1812, and for the Union Army during the Civil War.
Driving along Greenwood Lake Turnpike visitors can see along the side of the road some of the remaining (or rebuilt) 18th and 19th century structures, such as workers’ homes and commercial buildings, which formed only a small part of the village. Scattered in the northern Jersey wilderness, a site of natural heritage in itself, are three iron blast furnaces (including the original Colonial-era furnace constructed in 1766, and two larger furnaces built for Civil War production), evidence of iron forges, and the remains of waterpower systems. Altogether these historical relics represent “a microcosm of our industrial and cultural heritage.”
Is it fair to use the term “enchanting” to describe the visitors’ experience at Long Pond Ironworks? Stepping out of your car means stepping into living history. The ruins we see today are evidence of a thriving ironworking center, an iconic cultural symbol of American industry and industriousness. The site offers a historical window into the nation’s industrial ingenuity — Long Pond’s furnaces, iron forges, and water wheels are as much material remnants of the U.S. historical narrative as they are protected cultural property under State and Federal Historic Preservation laws. All the more, the personal and community stories of immigration, hard work, and adaptation at this plantation-turned-company, preserved in the stonework of foundations and woodwork of settlements, are thematic to the local, regional, and national cultural heritage.
Kudos to FOLPI (Friends of Long Pond Ironworks) for spearheading an immediate and long-term preservation “Master Plan” at the site, including: calls for the restoration of structure within the Historic District; stabilization of its ruins; ongoing archaeological excavation and research; and interpretation of the site to the public. Their stewardship efforts to conserve the cultural and natural beauty of the site, and to educate the public through their Museum exhibition and Lantern Tours, can be seen as a leading positive example of cultural resource management on a local level.
Although the last coal burning fires at Long Pond were blown out in April 1882, today there is a different fire found in the burning desire to Protect Our Heritage. Indeed, these are the words stamped on FOLPI’s Volunteer brochure. Culture in Peril’s awareness and recognition of Long Pond Ironworks can hopefully inspire your cultural heritage preservation efforts to begin, too.
(All photo credits belong to Nicholas Merkelson)