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Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site


As the Massachusetts Bay Colony grew in the seventeenth century, colonists needed iron to build ships and houses. At first the iron came from England, but it was expensive and slow in coming. By the 1640s, America's first successful ironworks on the Saugus River was pouring "pigs" (pig iron) and forging wrought iron. Now it is known as the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site.

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site
©National Park Service
The Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site
celebrates the rise of American industry.

At its peak in 1648, the ironworks employed approximately 185 ironworkers, miners, woodcutters, and boatmen, housing them in the company town of Hammersmith. In the 1950s, the American Iron and Steel Institute reconstructed several of the buildings at Hammersmith. By the late 1960s, the Saugus Iron Works had been designated a National Historic Site.

By touring the collection of rustic buildings, visitors can learn how iron was made and forged. Charcoal from nearby trees, iron ore from the marshy Saugus River, and flux from the Nahant peninsula were dumped into the top of the furnace and heated. The flux helped separate the impurities, which were skimmed off the top, and the pure molten iron ran into a sand furrow where it hardened into a long bar, or "sow." Some of the liquid iron was ladled into molds to make pots, kettles, and replacement parts for the ironworks.

The forge -- where waterwheels still turn and hammers ring as they hit anvils -- was the busiest of the ironworks buildings. Here, workers hammered and pounded the ingots into refined merchant bars that could be made into tools and building materials. Some of the merchant bars were taken to the slitting mill, where they were heated in an oven and made into flats or rods. The rods could then be made into nails, and many of them were used in the construction­ of the community of Hammersmith.

The finest home in Hammersmith was the Iron Works House. Built around 1646, it was the social and business center of the community. The site also has a nature trail through the surrounding marsh and woodland.

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site Information
Address: 244 Central St., Saugus, MA
Telephone: 781/233-0050
Hours of Operation: Closed until September 2007 due to construction. Normal hours are:

  • April 1 - October 31: Daily, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • November 1 - March 31: Daily, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Admission: Free

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To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.


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