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Article Archive >> Autumn Tourism

Antietam Iron Furnace Site and Antietam Village

Antietam Iron Furnace Site and Antietam Village

The Antietam Iron Furnace Site and Antietam Village, located on Harpers Ferry Road in Sharpsburg, consists of the remains of a mid-18th to late-19th century iron furnace site, and the nearby related village.
Remnants of the ironworks include a dam and race, a possible wheel pit or building foundation, the possible location of a furnace stack, a four-arch stone bridge built by John Weaver in 1832, another stone wall, a stone furnace stack or lime kiln, and the dozen or so brick, stone, and wood houses comprising Antietam Village.
Typical of the houses during this period is the Mentzer house, a four-bay, two-story, stone structure constructed of roughly coursed fieldstone and painted white. It is situated on a bluff overlooking the furnace site and faces south. Openings with wide wooden framing are spaced randomly. All windows have 2/2 pane Victorian period sashes. The house is bisected by an interior stone wall located just east of the second bay from the west end. The first floor plan consists of three rooms on an axis. Interior partitions at the second story are tongue and groove boards.
According to tradition, the Mentzer house is associated with the furnace. It is one of the oldest and largest dwellings remaining in Antietam Village.
The town of Antietam, at the confluence of Antietam Creek and the Potomac River, was the site of extensive iron-working facilities during most of the century following 1765. In that year, a company was formed for the purpose of producing iron. The first furnace and forge were likely in operation by 1775. Ore and wood for charcoal were obtained from the company's large landholdings in the South Mountain area. Pig iron was the major product, which was used in various forges then operating in Western Maryland.
Just prior to the Revolutionary War, Antietam and other ironworks nearby were acquired by the brothers Samuel and Daniel Hughes, who began producing cannon for the Baltimore Town Committee of Correspondence, for the Continental Marine Committee and, through Congress, directly for the Continental Army. Cannon were cast, bored, and proved by Hughes at the Antietam Iron Works (and probably at other Hughes-owned ironworks as well), and were transported to Baltimore by wagon. Following the Revolutionary War, Hughes moved his operations to Principio Furnace in Harford County, and the Antietam Furnace may have been inactive for a time. However, in 1831 a nail factory and rolling mill were set up, and a second charcoal furnace erected in 1845.
The works apparently suffered some damage during the Civil War, but was rebuilt and converted to coke fuel by the Ahl family of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. P.A. Ahl & Bros. operated the furnace until 1880. It was idle during most of the 1880s, and was dismantled in 1891. The Antietam Furnace is significant principally as an archeological site, on which no complete above-ground buildings exist. But the district also includes the adjacent Antietam Village, which consists of about two dozen buildings, of which the majority date to the 19th century. Antietam is visually not a company town, but rather a village of vernacular architecture of the 19th century, which exists because of the iron furnace.

Source: Maryland Historical Trust

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