Copake Iron Works Designated National Heritage Area

Copake Iron Works Designated National Heritage Area

furnace-before-afterWe are proud to announce that the Copake Iron Works has been designated a National Heritage Area in the Hudson Valley joining about 100 other highly esteemed historic places including Olana, the FDR Museum and Library and the Walkway Over the Hudson.  The full text of our recent press release follows:

Copake Falls, NY (11/28/16)–Friends of Taconic State Park announced today that the Copake Iron Works historic site in Taconic State Park has been designated a Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Site. The recognition, awarded through the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, in partnership with the National Park Service, recognizes the Copake Iron Works as a nationally significant cultural and natural resource of the Hudson River Valley.

As a Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Site, the Copake Iron Works joins about 100 other highly esteemed historic places in the Hudson Valley including Olana State Historic Site, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, and the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park.

Friends of Taconic State Park has worked since 2008 to preserve, stabilize and interpret the Copake Iron Works historic site, one of the most intact examples of 19th century industrial ironmaking in the northeast. The site is home to more remaining buildings and structures–including the centerpiece Copake Blast Furnace with its water jacket hearth–than most other iron works of its era.

New York State acquired the abandoned Copake Iron Works in 1926 as part of the creation of Taconic State Park. The site remained an industrial ruin until 2008 when Friends of Taconic State Park was formed. The stabilization and preservation work carried out by the Friends since then has been guided by the March 2000 report entitled “The Copake Iron Works at Taconic State Park–A Report on its Historical Significance and Development Potential,” written by Larry Gobrecht, New York State Historian at Peebles Island, and Tom Scofield, Taconic State Park Manager from 1985 to 2000.

Established by 19th century industrialist Lemuel Pomeroy in 1845 at the base of the Taconic Ridge in Copake Falls, New York, the ironworks operated from 1845 until 1903. Components of this extraordinarily intact 19th century industrial complex include the rare blast furnace, the blowing engine house, a machine shop museum with original equipment and artifacts, an original condition ironworkers’ residence, a Carpenter-Gothic style office building, and the elegant residence of Isaac Chesbrough, one of the first ironmasters for the site. A three-mile loop trail circumnavigating the Copake Iron Works Historic District and Bash Bish Falls State Park has been extensively interpreted with signage designed and installed by Friends of Taconic State Park with assistance from the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites.

J. Winthrop Aldrich, retired New York State Deputy Commissioner of Historic Preservation, was instrumental in helping the Copake Iron Works achieve National Heritage Area designation. Commissioner Aldrich said of the designation:

“Incorporating the historic Copake Iron Works into the Congressionally-mandated Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area affords further the amply merited recognition of this fascinating and ably interpreted industrial site. Open to the public and owned by New York State Parks, the site’s new designation adds a needed element to this National Park Service program–a notable example of the region’s industrial and commercial past and one that helps extend the presence of the National Heritage Area to its easterly limits. Excelsior!”

Daniel Jeanson of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area said: “The Copake Iron Works checks all the right boxes.  It has been appropriately preserved, it is well interpreted with signage, museum exhibits and docent guided tours, it is open to the public year-round, and it is an important point of interest on the Corridor of Commerce–places that tell the story of New York State Transportation, Industry and Commerce.”

Deborah Cohen, a founding board member of the Friends group said: “We could not be prouder. With this important national designation Friends of Taconic State Park can tell the story of the Copake Iron Works to a far wider audience than we could ever hope to reach without it.  We are especially grateful to Commissioner Aldrich for his constant advocacy on our behalf which included nominating the site last spring.”

Bill Pomeroy, founder of The William G. Pomeroy Foundation, is a second cousin, five times removed, of Copake Iron Works founder Lemuel Pomeroy. Both are descendants of Eltweed Pomeroy, a gunsmith who arrived in colonial Connecticut in 1630.  Pomeroy said:

“I extend my congratulations to the Friends of Taconic State Park on this distinguished designation and applaud their continuous efforts to preserve the former Copake Iron Works site.  This national designation will help foster heritage tourism to the area, allowing visitors the opportunity to appreciate the past, while providing economic benefits for the future.”

Self-guided tours of the Copake Iron Works Heritage trail can be enjoyed year round.  Docent-guided tours of the Copake Iron Works Museum are offered weekends from May to November.

Friends of Taconic State Park was established in 2008 to support cultural, recreational and educational activities within the park with the preservation of the historic Copake Iron Works site its first priority. The group is implementing a 20-year plan, approved by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, to create a pre-eminent site of historic iron-making and a national destination for tourists in Copake Falls.

More information about the Copake Iron Works historic site can be found on the National Heritage Area website at this link.

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