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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: Jennifer K. Cosham, 04/25/2006
Catoctin Furnace Historic District
Inventory No.: F-6-45
Date Listed: 2/11/1972
Location: Thurmont, Frederick County
Category: Site
Period/Date of Construction: 1774-1904
Description: The Catoctin Furnace Historic District is comprised of sites, buildings, and objects related to the iron industry. With the exception of "Auburn" it is an archeological site with some above-ground remains. Much of the terrain is covered by underbrush and woods. The most obvious of the standing remains at Catoctin Furnace is Stack #2, "Isabella", built by Jacob Kunkel and its stone furnace bunk. Stack #2 is a rectangular stone structure with a stone arch in each face. Immediately behind the furnace stack is a high stone wall, the furnace bunk wall. Stack #2 was originally 39' high and 9' x 9' on the interior of the stack. Constructed in 1853, it produced 3,300 tons of pig iron annually in the 1890s. It was a steam-operated, cold-blast charcoal furnace. Southeast of Stack #2 are the workers' cottages. Over 50 tenant cottages existed at Catoctin in the 1870s. Today less than a dozen of these are identifiable as the workers' cottages. The simple dwellings were constructed of log or stone. On the west side of U.S. 15, just south of Little Hunting Creek, the remains of race ditches, iron control gates, stone and mortar dams, a spillway race, and a race pond are still visible. The race ditch that provided water for Stack #2 and Stack #1, the latter totally demolished, existed west of Catoctin Manor House, or Iron Master's House. It was originally a two-story structure of an end-hall plan c. 1800. There was a massive chimney flush with the gable. The exterior of the building had been stuccoed and scored to give an appearance of dressed stone construction. By the mid 19th century, the house had developed into a formal, five-bay, center-hall dwelling, resulting from a two-story extension onto the west end. A short time later a two-story wing was built to the north, thereby forming a T plan. The north end of the north wing has late-19th century stone buttresses built to reinforce a cracked wall. About 1/2 mile south of the furnace, on the west side of U.S. 15, Auburn, a stone mansion built c. 1802-1806, was remodeled and enlarged at a later date. This 2-story stone structure is five bays in length with a gable roof and massive, flush gable chimneys. There is a kitchen wing of later date. In the center of the facade is a columned portico covered by a gable set perpendicularly to the roof ride. Numerous out buildings remain. To the south of the furnace stacks are a series of parallel race ditches and a raised ore-cart path which was later converted into a railroad bed. A stone foundation of unknown original use exits to the south of the furnace stack. One foundation may have supported a log structure. Two more depressions to the south of the stone foundation may have been building foundations. They are located on the east slope of a limestone pit. Significance: The Catoctin Furnace complex, significant to American industrial history and industrial archeology, and its related living quarters, illustrates the growth and development of the iron industry between 1774 and 1904--the operative period. The ability to be self sustaining proves to be unusual, permitting the company from the start to mine, refine, and forge products within close proximity of each related operation and within the company-owned area. Raw material in the company-owned forests and some of the pits were adjacent to the furnaces, factories, and workers' cottages, facilitating the self-sustaining quality which resulted in economic success. The facilities were expanded and "modernized" as technology advanced during the operative period.
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