Sloss Furnaces

Birmingham, AL

33.520656, -86.791306

The Jones Valley developed rapidly after the American Civil War due to its vast mineral resources, including all the raw materials needed to make iron. In 1880, Colonel James Withers Sloss, a north Alabama merchant and railroad man, founded the Sloss Furnace Company and construction of Birmingham's second blast furnace began the following year with the production of pig iron commencing in 1882. The furnaces were extensively rebuild and modernized in the late 1920s and continued in operation until 1971.

Upon closing, the property was donated to the Alabama State Fair Authority for development into an industrial museum but the Authority ultimately determined reuse was not feasable. Preservationists lobbied to prevent a planned demolition and the property was transferred to the City. In 1977, city voters approved a $3.3 million bond to start the massive job of preservation. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1981 and opened as a museum in September of 1983. Most of the structures dates from the early 20th century and none of the original 1882 buildings survived sequential renovations over the years.

I first became acquainted with the facility in 2002 when the Amtrak Crescent passenger train I was riding passed just to the south of the facility. These photos date from a visit in 2003.

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