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Copake Iron Works–Blasting into the Past: A Seconds to Go Short

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Deep within the embrace of the Taconic Mountains, nestled alongside the gurgling Bash Bish Brook, lies a testament to American industrial ingenuity – the Copake Iron Works historic site. Established in 1845, this historic site in upstate New York isn’t about towering smokestacks and forgotten machinery. It’s a captivating journey through time, offering a glimpse into a bygone era where fire and sweat birthed the iron that helped shape a nation.

Visiting Copake Iron Works Blast Oven and Historical Site

The Copake Iron Works blast furnace is kept under a canopy to protect it from the elements and preserve its historical significance.
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We left Bash Bish falls, tired and sore from trekking in from the Massachusetts side, and headed for New York to visit the Copake Iron Works historic site. Why, you might ask, would New England travel bloggers be heading into New York?

The answer is simple. When you live in New England, there are so many travel destinations within a few hour’s drive that it’s hard to resist the allure of a neighboring state, especially when you’re already in the area. For a history lover, Copake Iron Works exerts its own irresistible draw. Located in what is now the Taconic State Park, the small roadside museum heralds the history of the industrial revolution as well as important government initiatives to preserve land of geological significance for future generations.

Copake Iron Works is considered one of the most intact examples of late 19th century ironmaking, thanks in part to its signature centerpiece. The remains of the original blast furnace, partially restored from its deteriorating condition by volunteers and generous donations, is a reminder of our country’s growth from agriculture into the industrial revolution.

Several buildings and exhibits make up the site, including a museum taking up residence in the former machine shop. Here you will find an extensive history about the iron works as well as original artifacts from the area’s iron making history.

This white Gothic-Revival style building was once a residence for Isaac Chesbrough, an early iron master, as well as the offices of Copake Ironworks
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The Gothic-Revival style office building, once a residence of Isaac Chesbrough, an early ironmaster for the business, is also a part of the property as are former railroad beds and a cast iron heat exchanger.

Copake Iron Works History

National historical register sign in the grass before a white clapboard building designating the Copake IronWorks as a National HIstoric Site.
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By the mid-1800s, the young U.S. nation was booming, and iron was required to fuel its growth. Older ironworks founded nearly a century before were outdated and not up to the task of producing at the speed necessary to suit the burgeoning economy.

In 1845, Lemuel Pomeroy II selected Copake Falls, New York for a new modern facility. As it turns out, iron might have been necessary to fuel the nation, but timber was required to fuel the making of iron, and it was in great supply in the Copake Falls area.

Even more importantly, iron ore was also in abundance, so Pomeroy built his new facility downstream from Bash Bish falls, relying on water power to fuel the operation.

However, what goes around usually comes around again, and by 1923, the modern Copake facility was eclipsed by newer and more modern plants throughout the country. Copake Iron Works was closed and left to sit empty and decaying.

Eventually, the forest began to reclaim the site until 1926 when the state of New York, under the direction of Franklin D. Roosevelt, began a program to preserve lands of significance for public enjoyment. The state acquired the land as part of the formation of the Taconic State Park.

Get the Details Before You Go

Copake Iron Works is located in Copake Falls, New York and is open year round, dawn to dusk, for self-guided tours. According to the Friends of Copake Iron Works, the onsite museum is open weekends from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Memorial Day through Mid-November.

On our first visit, a week day in early April, we were able to tour the diorama room and watch an informative video. Weekends, however, are the best time to visit Copake Iron Works.

Volunteers staff the museum in the afternoon. We spent over an hour during our second visit chatting with friendly and knowledgeable staff about the history of the iron works and the area in general.

On weekends, you’ll also get an up close and personal view of the blast furnace. The gates are opened and hard hats are provided if you want to get a closer inspection.

Coming in from a hike to Bash Bish Falls on both visits, we especially appreciated that Copake Iron Works was pet friendly. They offer water for dogs and allow them to enter the museum.

You’ll also find a 3-mile walking tour taking you past former rail beds, original worker lodging cabins and other features of historic significance to the site.

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Model diorama of Copake Iron Works at the height of production.

What to Expect at Copake Iron Works Historic Site

  • Friendly and knowledgable volunteers who readily share their knowledge about the history of the area and the iron works site in particular
  • Dog friendly stop in the Taconic Mountains
  • A chance to explore a bit of history, diving deep into the details that helped forge the nation
  • Some side exhibits which feature historic buildings from the time

COPAKE IRON WORLD HISTORIC SITE DETAILS

LOCATION

Copake Falls, NY

TRIP LENGTH

15 minutes to 1.5 hours

THINGS TO DO NEARBY

Bash Bish Falls


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Mother daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S.

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.

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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughters. Kathleen has been a professional writer for more than a decade, helping businesses craft compelling content to advance organizational goals.