Farmingdale in Monmouth County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Furnace: heart of the village
Industry & Trade
—Historic Settlements —
The Furnace Complex
All that remains standing of the Howell Works furnace is the brick stack you see beyond the hill in front of you. In the first half of the 19th century, a large complex of three connected buildings, the bridge house, the casting shed, and the wheelhouse, provided the framework for production of pig iron and cast iron.
The furnace operated twenty-four hours a day, with two twelve-hour shifts for workers. Sunday and part of Saturday were time off, though the furnace was kept in burn seven days a week. A typical “season” lasted nine or ten months a year, but longer runs were known, especially in times of economic instability.
The stack was kept loaded through an opening near its top, with layers of bog iron ore, charcoal, and seashells (flux). Air was piped into the bottom of the stack through pipes called “tuyeres,” which kept the charcoal burning at a constant rate and high temperature.
By the time the mixture reached a temperature near 3,000 degrees, the layers melted. The iron separated from impurities in the ore and collected at the bottom of the stack in the crucible. From there it would be shaped, either in the dirt floor into bars or “pigs,” or into molds for finished cast iron pieces such as kettles or stove plates.
This building was located on the level on which you are standing. A sloped ramp or bridge inside this building led up to the opening called the charging hole, located near the top of the stack. This ramp enabled the workers to load charcoal, bog iron ore, and flux (seashells) into the furnace.
This building enclosed a large water wheel, which powered air pumps with pipes leading into the casting shed. In order to keep the charcoal in the furnace burning at a constant rate, air needed to be pumped into the furnace stack. The air pumps originally were huge bellows. They were later replaced by piston-like pumps.
The Casting Shed
Located at the bottom of the bluff was the largest building of the complex, housing the furnace stack and two smaller cupola furnaces. The brick building had a high ceiling, stretching up for several stories to allow heat and gases to disperse. Windows allowed light to penetrate the steamy darkness. The floor was sandy soil used for casting pig iron and large items such as bells and cauldrons.
Erected by National Park Service, State of New Jersey.
Location. 40° 9.339′ N, 74° 7.594′ W. Marker is in Farmingdale, New Jersey, in Monmouth County. Marker can be reached Touch for map. Marker is located in Allaire Village in Allaire State Park. Marker is in this post office area: Farmingdale NJ 07727, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Charcoal Depot: warehouse & staging area (within shouting distance of this marker); A Salute to the Boy Scouts of America (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Millpond (about 600 feet away); The Manasquan Floodplain (about 700 feet away); Allaire Village (approx. 0.2 miles away); Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Allentown Station (approx. ¼ mile away); PRR Watchman’s Shanty (approx. 0.3 miles away).
More about this marker. The upper left of the marker contains a picture of “The furnace complex, seen from the casting shed or lower level, as it appeared in the 1830s. Drawing taken from a piece of script, or paper money, used at the Howell Works.”
Illustrations appear by the text for The Bridge House, The Wheelhouse, and The Casting Shed, courtesy of the National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center Art Collection. The illustration of the Casting Shed labels the Bridge House, Charging Hole, Furnace Stack, Seashell Flux, Bog Iron, Charcoal, Tuyeres, Crucible, Hearth Stone, and Pig Iron.
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 23, 2015, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 196 times since then and 21 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 23, 2015, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.