Location: McCalla, Alabama
Website: Alabama State Park
General Description: Daniel Hillman, a Pennsylvania furnaceman, built a bloomery furnace on the banks of Roupes Creek in 1830, where he found rich deposits of brown iron ore. By the Civil War, the ironworks had been upgraded with the construction of a blast furnace on the site. During the War an additional two blast furnaces were built to supply Confederate war effort. The primary product from the furnaces was pig iron, turning out 22 tons a day. The iron would be cast into ordnance, skillets, pots, and ovens for the South. On March 31, 1865, this all came to an end then three companies of Union General James Wilson’s cavalry burned and destroyed the furnaces. Today the original bloomery furnace and three blast furnaces have been reconstructed to their condition during the Civil War and provide a picturesque background to the Alabama forests. Tannehill Ironworks is also the site of the Iron and Steel Museum of Alabama, a southeastern regional interpretive center on 19th century iron making featuring both belt driven machines of the 1800s and tools and products of the times. While the focus is on Alabama’s contributions to the steel industry there are exhibits from all over the country.
1) When you enter the park, the main feature you see are the extensive picnic areas, RV campgrounds, and the Iron and Steel Museum. While the exhibits in the museum provide a lot of information about the steel industry there is actually very little about the ironworks at the site, which was disappointing. The most interesting exhibit I saw was about the transition from wooden water pipes made by boring out the center of logs to cast iron pipes.
2) The ironworks themselves is a short walk along the creek to the site. They have reconstructed all four of the furnaces which stand side-by-side, along with a couple of the support buildings, for instance the water powered pump house that supplied forced air for the blast furnaces until they installed steam engines for this purpose during the Civil War. Consequently the furnaces are in great condition.
3) There are some hiking trails that lead from the furnaces, but we decided not to take advantage of any of them.
4) A short drive up to the top of the ridge brings you to their Pioneer Farm and Grist Mill on Mud Creek. Again the Grist Mill had been reconstructed and is still a working mill during special events. The Pioneer Farm was not very impressive, being just a couple of barns and a forge, all of which were under construction while we were there.