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Fitchburg Furnace, Ravenna

#73 of 87 in Historic Sites in Kentucky
Must see · Monument · Hidden Gem · Historic Site
The Fitchburg Furnace is a historic iron furnace located in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Estill County, KY.

The furnace is the world’s largest charcoal iron furnace and the last to be built in Kentucky. The structure was state of the art in its time. With core of the furnace consisted of twin stacks built of local sandstone using traditional dry laid stone masonry, and today is counted among the top dry masonry projects in the world. The massive structure stands 115 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 65 feet high. A number of innovative features first used at this furnace were later taken up by modern furnaces.
Designed by Fred Fitch and built by Sam Worthley, a stone mason from Scotland, the furnace was completed in 1869, and operated by Red River Iron Works. It is unique in that it consists of two furnaces in a single structure. It operated from 1870 to 1874 and employed over 1000 men. In 1870, this furnace produced 10,000 tons of pig iron valued at more than $60,000.

The production of pig iron was one of Kentucky's earliest industries. A major producer of iron since 1791, Kentucky ranked third in the U.S. in the 1830's and 11th in 1865. Estill County in particular was one of the first areas in the United States to experience early industrialization, with iron mining and smelting beginning in 1810. The iron industry thrived in Estill County for decades, with the ruins of several furnaces, in addition to Fitchburg Furnace, being visible today, including the Estill furnace and the Cottage furnace.
After 1879, the industry declined due to the obsolescence of the process, the start of iron production around the Great Lakes, and the depletion of ore and timber.

The town of Fitchburg sprang up when the furnace was built; with a thriving community existing for the years of the furnace's operation. Today nothing remains to indicate the town of Fitchburg ever existed.
Originally the furnace consisted of several connecting structures, however, today only the stone core remains. This structure suffered years of neglect, with numerous stones falling out, one front corner being blasted out with dynamite, and trees are growing on the top. However, since 2004 much of these damages have been repaired, and the furnace has been maintained by the US Forest Service and private donors.
Today Fitchburg Furnace is accessible as a historic site in the Daniel Boone National Forest outside of Ravenna, KY.
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Fitchburg Furnace reviews

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7 reviews
  • A bit off of the beaten path, this old iron works furnace is as rich in history as it's size is impressive. Although there are plenty of signs around to explain the history of the site, the real...  more »
  • I live in the area and have visited all the furnaces in the area. This is the most intact furnace, and is easy to get to (not a lot of walking/hiking). Great history, and they do allow camping...  more »
  • Pretty amazing site. Hand build dry stack . One of the biggest standing left. It was used to separate out the iron. Got to see to appreciate the size & quality of workmanship from the mid 1800's.
  • Amazing site, very historical! Surrounded by beautiful countryside as well. Fitchburg furnace is the largest charcoal furnace in the world at 81 ft tall, and one of the largest dry-stone masonry structures in the world
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