Shelby Iron Works Timeline 1846 - 1930
A Story About the Largest Blast Furnace in the Southern United States
Video created by the Historic Shelby Association, now part of the Shelby County Historical Society
Shelby Iron Works Park
10268 County Rd. 42 Shelby, Alabama 35143
Open during daylight hours
Special tours are available by appointment
The Shelby Iron Works Park in Shelby, Alabama, is located on the site of the old Shelby Iron Company, which dates back to 1842 when Horace Ware purchased the property and built a cold blast iron furnace. The furnace was able to produce 5 tons of iron a day. The company grew as the Civil War brought the need for iron plating to be used on the CSS Tennessee, CSS Huntsville, and CSS Tuscaloosa.
The Iron Company was connected to the nearby town of Columbiana by the Shelby Iron Company Railroad, where cannon and shells were produced by the Churchill and Sons company.
On March 31, 1865, a detachment of Emory Upton's division of Wilson's Raiders destroyed the plant. It was later rebuilt in 1868 and made primarily railroad car wheels. A larger stack furnace was constructed in 1875 and was able to produce a capacity of 75 tons a day. A second furnace was added in 1889.
By 1923 the Shelby Iron Company had reached the end of its days. During its prime, the iron company boasted of the largest charcoal blast furnace in the United States. It was known as the "Queen of American Charcoal Iron Furnaces."
Brick walls that once formed the furnaces still remain, along with other features associated with the production of iron, such as cisterns and tunnels.
In 1988 a group of volunteers formed the Historic Shelby Association (HSA). They cleared the 12-acre site where the furnace remains are located. The land was donated to the HSA by Edmund "Bucky" Hinson Jr., who was the manager of Buchanan Woodlands, LLC.
In 2018, the HSA became part of the Shelby County Historical Society. The Society continues the great traditions begun by the HSA, such as several annual festivals and a well-loved pancake breakfast on the first Saturday of each month. All proceeds from these events are used for park improvement projects.