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Welcome to my first History Blog

Hi, I am David, Marianne and I recently restored William Kemble’s house, "The Cottage". It was built in 1826 and it is the only restored building from the Glory days of the West Point Foundry: 1817 – 1865.

The Kemble Brothers and the West Point Foundry

Both the Kemble brothers and West Point Foundry played a crucial role in the development of heavy industry in the US and in supplying munitions for the civil war, most notably the Parrott cannon. It was here that the US pivoted from an agrarian economy to an industrial nation.

William Kemble, West Point Foundry
William Kemble, Artist unknown 1795-1881 courtesy of the Kirklin family

The war of 1812 against England highlighted the lack of heavy industry in the US. Most of the iron and supplies for the manufacturing of weapons of war such as cannons, needed to be imported, leaving the US dependent on overseas suppliers in the case of a major conflict. President James Madison called for the establishment of an industrial base in the US to fill this need. The two Kemble brothers, Gouverneur and William, owned a small foundry in downtown Manhattan.

Gouverneur Kemble, West Point Foundry
Gouverneur Kemble: Asher Durant, 1853: Courtesy National Gallery of Art

In 1817 the Kemble brothers together with General Joseph Swift, superintendent of West Point, and a $45,000 grant from the US government, incorporated a foundry in Cold Spring, New York. Perhaps the first military industrial complex in the United States.

The site was chosen for the following reasons:

West Point is located right across the Hudson from Cold Spring and at the time it was the pre-eminent engineering school in the US, therefore enabling the foundry to hire a steady supply of talented engineers.

A stream, Margaret’s brook now called Foundry Brook, was there to provide water power; the area was heavily forested, providing wood to fuel the furnaces; the soil was iron rich.

It is a short walk from William Kemble’s house to Foundry Brook and the West Point Foundry Preserve. Seeing the remains of the foundry today, it seems hard to imagine the belching black smoke and noise that shattered the serenity of this valley two hundred years ago.

Graduates from West Point, skilled workers and local young men were hired. Many of the skilled workers were smuggled in from England. The small village of Cold Spring, NY became a company town. At its peak it employed 1,500 men working 24 hours a day 7 days per week.

Only William’s house, “The Cottage” remains as a testimony to this Golden Age of the West Point foundry from 1818 to 1865, now a National Historic Landmark. Since its restoration “The Cottage” is now a historic inn called West Point Foundry Bed and Breakfast.

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