Shelby Iron Works

Shelby, Alabama




Spring 2017 Newsletter

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Posted: 03/31/2017  By: Harry Burks

FURNACE SITE - Much work has taken place at the old furnace site since the last newsletter. Do you recall how grown up it was with privet hedge?  Privet is a successful invasive species because of its ability to outcompete and therefore displace native vegetation - evidence this as the site appeared when reclamation efforts were first begun. It was virtually impossible to enter and walk thru the area without carefully cutting and picking your way. Scores of years growth had become an almost impenetrable barrier. Now, after months of work by our all volunteer work crew and a local machine operator - along with help from community volunteers and Shelby County - the ruins of the former furnace sites are revealed. With reference to some circa 1905 & 1910 maps our site coordinators are determining where best to concentrate our preservation efforts.  Yes, there is much to be done as time and money allow - much has already been done.  Pictures can be seen on our Facebook page.


CHEMICAL PLANT CLEANUP - Remember how you could barely see the big concrete structure and wonder what it was. Today, only the skeleton remains, however, old pictures show the completed building  enclosed, in what I am told was corrugated metal siding. That metal was removed during World War II  to be reused in the production of materials for the war effort  My understanding - It was built during the First World War by the United States Government to make ammunition by utilizing a by-product of charcoal making. The furnaces were fired with charcoal which was largely produced on site by the Iron Works - hence those by-products were readily available. We believe the war ended before the plant went into production. So, you see, the structure had weathered the test of time nearly one hundred years. It had accumulated years of debris and dirt, various plants and shrubs, and numerous tall - very tall - trees had grown therein. The trees were carefully cut (that was quite a chore) and removed, bushes and other vegetation pulled out and hauled away then the overload of dirt and debris was cleaned up. The general cleanup of the surrounding grounds has opened up the building for viewing from the road.


COUNTRY STORE and McDANIEL BUILDINGS  have been painted to blend with other Iron Works Buildings.  Plans have been made and funding has been secured to allow painting the Museum and the Company Hall. Just another part of our mission to preserve and protect.


PANCAKE BREAKFAST - It is hard to believe we are starting our fourth year of doing the monthly pancake breakfast. The breakfast has been good for The Iron Works - it helps pay our monthly bills and it brings people to the Park. We have picked up new members as a result and it has helped generate interest in the history associated with the community and the Iron Works. Breakfast is from 7 to 10 AM on the first Saturday of each month. VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED - no experience required !!!!!!!!!!


KITCHEN STORAGE BUILDING - The building was relocated to a spot behind and adjacent to the Company Hall. (The Company Hall is the name of the Kitchen/Dining Hall/Meeting Room) This site is conveniently located and is accessed by a covered ramp connecting to the side porch. In order to comply with Health Department requirements the interior was mostly gutted and redone. Old linoleum was removed and new commercial grade flooring installed. Walls and ceilings were repaired and painted. Shelving was constructed and a new entrance door installed. The exterior was painted to blend with others and the connecting covered ramp was added. We now have an approved building which houses our large three door commercial cooler, a freezer and ample kitchen supplies storage space. Another project by our all volunteer work crew.


HISTORIC CHIMNEY FENCE - The area immediately around the olde chimney had been graded level to prepare it for the new fence. We were able to purchase the fence material thru an Iron Works member at contractor price and he delivered it to our park. Our all volunteer work crew dug the postholes, assembled and installed the fence. The one hundred year old chimney is now enclosed and protected with a four foot high metal fence. It really compliments the old structure which we know as our most recognizable landmark. In my view - That chimney is as important to us as Vulcan may be to the City of Birmingham. Previously, the chimney base was stabilized and cosmetically restored with similar brick gathered from the furnace ruins.


RAILROAD SCALES PIT FENCE - A fence akin to the one around the chimney, has been erected by our all volunteer work crew. This pit once held the railroad scales where train cars were weighed to keep track of iron shipments. For years a wood picket fence had surrounded this area but age and the elements had taken a toll.  A new metal fence, powder coated black, has undertaken that duty.


SORGHUM SYRUP - if ya’ll ain’t from around here you may not know much about sorghum syrup. Some of us older folks will remember - maybe fondly - how it was used as an affordable sweetener. It has a unique taste that many who were raised on it are partial to. At the last Fall Festival we had an abundance of sorghum cane which was squeezed through the cane mills - the juice thus extracted was cooked the old fashion way, in an open pan over a roaring fire, to make sorghum syrup. We made lots of syrup!!  It is available for sale at the pancake breakfast  or various other times at the Iron Park, usually on Tuesday or Thursdays when the volunteer work crew is there. Harry Burks may be contacted at 205 669-3137.


RIBBON CANE SYRUP -  At the same Fall Festival we had also harvested, pressed and cooked a good quantity of cane syrup.  It was harvested, squeezed and cooked much the same as the sorghum. Again, we made lots of this syrup.  Generally, this is a sweeter syrup. Help us pass the word to friends and neighbors.  The Iron Works has syrup to sell!!!!!!!!