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Cultivating the art, heritage, and recreation of the river towns of Columbia, Marietta, Wrightsville and surrounding areas

Musselman-Vesta Iron Furnace Center

26 Furnace Road

Marietta, PA 

Open Seasonally on Sundays 1 PM - 3 PM

Rivertownes Meetings: First Wednesday, 6:30 PM

Musselman-Vesta

Furnace

Vesta was the last of the anthracite furnaces to be built in the floodplain and the last to go out of blast, since it produced ferromanganese during World War I and was in use until 1930. It was built in l868 by Henry Musselman and Henry M. Watts, who had operated Marietta Furnaces No. 1 and No.2 in partnership. At first, it was known as Musselman's Furnace. The casting house was built of stone and the engine house was brick. From 1880 to 1886 it underwent several remodelings which increased the height of the stack from 41 ' to 65' and the length of the buildings from 170' to 195'. The bosh was widened from 13' to 14', the top of the stack was fitted with a bell and hopper, and large hot blast stoves were added. The stock houses were rebuilt at least three times, and the furnace railways were also repositioned several times. Annual production of pig-iron increased from 5,400 tons in 1870 to 22,500 tons in the late 1800s. The products, neutral forge and superior foundry iron, were sold under the brand name "Vesta".

After a period during which it was idle towards the end of the 19th century, the E. J. Lavino Company acquired the furnace in 1917 and resumed operation. A number of stoves and small buildings were added to the complex, as well as a large concrete pump house with Worthington pumps. George Miller of Marietta, who was employed by the E. J. Lavino Company for 16 years until the furnace closed in 1930, described operations during that period in a taped interview in 1971. He noted that ten carloads of raw materials, consisting of scrap iron and manganese ore imported from all over the world, were fed into the furnace each day to produce a daily output of 80 tons of ferromanganese, which was shipped to steel mills in Youngstown, Ohio, and Coatesville and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The coke (note that anthracite coal was no longer used) used in the furnace came from Connellsville, Pennsylvania. The furnace had four hot blast stoves which preheated air to 13,000 F. Two large blowing engines delivered 14,400 cubic feet of air per minute into the furnace. A gas washer and dryer were used to condition the furnace gases before they were sent to preheaters and boilers to make steam to run the plant and pumps. Two 12" pipelines brought water from the river to the pump house where four Worthington duplex piston pumps delivered it to the furnace. The furnace ceased operating in the 1920's and was dismantled. Parts of the stone and brick wall foundations of the main furnace building and casting house are still visible, as are a number of concrete, brick and masonry foundations for small buildings, retaining walls, and platforms for chimneys and stoves. The concrete piers for elevated railways which curved around in front and in back of the furnace are still in place, and the brick oil house under the elevated hoist between the stack and the stock shed has no roof but the brick walls are intact. The foundation of the blacksmith shop, adjacent to the west of the furnace, is not visible above ground but was located by archeological testing. Some of this area has been cleared of brush and paths have been laid out to permit access to the ruins where educational lectures are now conducted.