Best of Friends

Friends of Long Pond Ironworks

Long Pond Ironworks, founded in 1766 by Peter Hasenclever and his London-based American Company investors, is an example of the ironworks plantations established in the American Colonies before independence. The village and furnaces at Long Pond produced iron for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War (under ironmaster Robert Erskine), for the American forces in the War of 1812 (under ironmaster Martin J. Ryerson), and for the Union Army during the Civil War (under ironmaster Abram S. Hewitt and the Trenton Iron Company). Long Pond Ironworks is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The ruins of the two Hewitt-built furnaces show an intact blowing arch. Molten iron flowed from the furnaces into the casting house between the two furnaces. It flowed into troughs dug in the sand floor and hardened to become pig iron, Long Pond’s raw product.

The Friends of Long Pond Ironworks evolved out of a West Milford Township historic preservation commission appointed in the 1970s after the North District Water Supply Commission released its plans to flood the Monksville Reservoir, which meant submerging the site’s historic iron blast furnaces. The colonial-era furnace had been excavated circa 1966 by the Massachusetts-based archaeologist Roland Robbins, with help from volunteers with the North Jersey Highlands Historical Society, including New Jersey’s renowned industrial archaeologist Ed Lenik. Significant public interest in the ironworks induced members of the government commission to start an independent group called “Friends of the Furnace.” That group was incorporated in 1984 as The Friends of Long Pond Ironworks, Inc. (FOLPI). Today the nonprofit 501(c)(3) volunteer organization remains dedicated to preserving, restoring, and interpreting the remaining structures and history of the 175-acre Long Pond Ironworks Historic District, all within the Ringwood State Park System. FOLPI is an Officially Recognized Friends Organization of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, Department of Environmental Protection.

Displays at the museum at Long Pond Ironworks

FOLPI’s primary activity is operating the Museum and Visitor Center at the Long Pond Ironworks, providing staff (in normal times) on Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 pm, from April through November. FOLPI volunteers also give guided walking tours on the second Saturday of each month and special tours and programs by appointment for school, scout and other groups. In addition, FOLPI sponsors special history-themed fundraising events, including an annual Living History Weekend Civil War encampment; blacksmithing and iron casting demonstrations; and Candle Lantern Tours with the 6th New Hampshire ContraBand and the historical balladeer Linda Russel. Finally, FOLPI applies for and administers historic preservation grants and is currently working with the 1772 Foundation and the New Jersey Historic Trust to stabilize and restore the 1895 Methodist Church within the Historic District. Plans to resume the regular schedule of museum operation, guided tours, and special events are firmly in place, once it is deemed safe to do so.

FOLPI currently has about two hundred members. Most live in northern New Jersey and southern New York State, but there are also members from as far away as Texas and California, as well as overseas. Membership dues and donations make up the majority of the organization’s operating budget, which is about $15,000 per year (excluding grant-funded capital projects) and covers administrative and facility maintenance costs, printing of brochures for the historic site, and production and mailing of the Ironworkings membership newsletter three times per year.

“Martin Deeks volunteered with FOLPI from 1986 or 1987 until he took his dream job at Ringwood State Park in 1998. His formal title was Historic Preservation Specialist, and he had specific responsibility for Long Pond Ironworks,” remembers Susan Deeks. “We were married in 2002; he passed away from cancer in early 2003. Although he wasn’t FOLPI’s founder, he did serve as the group’s president for a time in the mid-1990s. He created most of FOLPI’s public relations and education/interpretation programs, including the monthly guided site tours, in-school and field trip offerings, and the Long Pond Ironworks Museum. He was a mentor to many of us in the museum field.”

In normal times, The Friends of Long Pond Ironworks present many interesting and fun events, re-enactments and tours. For information and directions call the Friends of Long Pond Ironworks at 973-657-1688 or call Ringwood State Park at 973-962-2240. Or ring up their website.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

More...

This story was first published: Spring, 2021