Blast Furnace

On December 21, 1886, the Birmingham Furnace and Manufacturing Company was incorporated by a group of men from Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The first land company was the Trussville and Cahaba River Land Company, which incorporated on March 19, 1887. That same year, a tract of land was purchased from the Trussville and Cahaba River Land Company, and construction of a furnace began. A large portion of the furnace built that year came from material from the dismantled Lemont Furnace in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The furnace was located on the land where the historic school on Parkway Drive is now located. The finished stack, 65 feet high and 17 1/2 feet in the wash, was blown in at noon on April 8, 1889.

Prior to the sale, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad built a line of tracks to serve the furnace’s needs. A special train left the union depot in Birmingham at 10:15 a.m. to celebrate the opening of the furnace. On April 13, 1889, it was reported that the furnace was turning out a good quality of iron, and the company’s officers were pleased with the results. The furnace remained in blast until the middle of 1893, when it was blown out due to the diminishing demand for pig iron.

In late 1896, the furnace was put back in blast under the Trussville Furnace Company, but operated only a few months before being blown out again. The main difficulty of the furnace was the high cost of raw material transportation. Red hematite was mined within a few miles of the furnace but not in sufficient quantity to satisfy the operation’s needs. Additional ore was brought from the Birmingham and Bessemer districts to supplement the local supply, brown hematite was brought from Bartow and Oremont, Georgia, and coke was secured from Birmingham.

The Trussville Furnace, Mining and Manufacturing Company took over the furnace property on September 1, 1899. The incorporators were local men Henry W. Perry, Tunstall B. Perry and Robert D. Smith. It was not put in blast until 1901, and only operated a few months. On July 10, 1902, the furnace property was purchased by the Lacey Buek Iron Company. The furnace was rebuilt and beehive coke ovens were introduced. The stalk was expanded to 80 feet from 65 feet, and the wash was widened to 22 1/2 feet from 17 1/2 feet. It was blown in during 1903 and christened the “Ella.” The furnace operated under this company until it was acquired on July 1, 1906, by the Southern Steel Company, which rebuilt the furnace but did not enlarge it. By this time, it was rated at 72,000 tons annually, up from 70,000 under Lacey Buek Iron Company. There were 212 workmans’ houses attached to the plant, and in 1907, the Southern Steel Company bankrupted. The Southern Iron and Steel Company acquired the furnace in 1909, but it was blown out in 1910. This company defaulted on its bonds in 1911 and the furnace was passed to the Michigan Trust Company.

The furnace remained idle between 1910 and 1917, when the Birmingham Trussville Iron Company was organized, taking control of the furnace. The furnace was blown in for the final time in the spring of 1918, operating until the spring of 1919. The furnace remained abandoned until its dismantling in 1933.

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