This quiet site once buzzed with activity as the center of Franconia's economy during the time of the Industrial Revolution.
A dam about 200 feet upstream provided water power for an iron smelter across the river and for grist, saw and bobbin mills on this side. Steel was produced where you now stand.
The original pioneers in Franconia had settled in 1772 on level land along the Ham Branch (now Rt. 116), where they could raise crops and harvest trees.
A quarter century later, the construction of the iron smelting furnace on the far bank of the Gale River shifted the village center to this location.
Sea merchants from Salem, Massachusetts formed the New Hampshire Iron Factory Company with profits from their foreign trade. They built the core of this furnace in 1805 on the site of an earlier forge. The granite block stack was rebuilt twice for better efficiency.
The smelter operated in Fall and Winter, when farmers would work for low wages. In 1850 the 50 workers each earned from $20 to $33 a month. The company provided boarding houses for its workers along Main Street just south of here.
The original Iron Mine Tavern was hauled by oxen to this area and was a popular inn. It was rebuilt twice after fires, until its final burning in 1960.
War led to the demise of the iron industry here, as furnaces were built in Pennsylvania, closer to the population area.
By 1870, this furnace was abandoned. Fire destroyed the building in 1884. Metal parts were salvaged for World Wars I and II.
Only the granite stack and the shed's foundations remain to remind us and future generations of Franconia's industrial origin.
The furnace and its site are privately owned. Trespassing is dangerous and forbidden.
The interpretive Center is a project of the
Franconia Area Heritage Council
PO Box 169. Franconia, NH 03580