Since opening in 1990, Albany’s Times Union Center has hosted concerts, sporting events, and political conventions.  But, did you know that it occupies the former site of the city’s earliest-known iron foundry?

Today, the Times Union Center occupies the former site of the Eagle Furnace, 110 Beaver Street, Albany, NY. Click to enlarge.

In 1808, Warner Daniels opened the Eagle Furnace at 110 Beaver Street.  Seven years later, William T. James patented and manufactured the earliest cookstove, which he called a “Baltimore Cookstove.”  That same year, in 1815, the first stove factory opened in Troy, nine miles up the Hudson River from Albany.  Over the next 100 years, the cities of Albany and Troy were the site of the nation’s preeminent cast iron stove industry.

Why did people establish so many iron foundries in Albany and Troy?  Well, the cities were located near the site of raw materials and transportation networks.  Iron ore came from the Adirondack Mountains, while limestone and charcoal necessary for smelting came from counties surrounding Albany and Troy.  Proximity to the rivers allowed manufacturers to ship their stoves south to New York City and, when the Erie Canal opened in 1825, westward to the Great Lakes.

The collection of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) has a box stove that resembles many of the stoves made in the Capital District.  Box stoves are wood-burning stoves that were popular during the 1800s thanks to their fuel economy and portability.  NYSHA’s box stove is made of six plates, which are supported by three detachable lion feet.

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Box stove, ca. 1825, Cast iron, 17.5″ x 9.5″, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0032.1960

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Box stove, ca. 1825, Cast iron, 17.5″ x 9.5″, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0032.1960

Four of the plates contain Gothic Revival motifs.  The door and back, for example, feature rose windows.

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Box stove, front, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0032.1960

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Box stove, front, rose window detail, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0032.1960

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Box stove, back, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0032.1960

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Box stove, back, rose window detail, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0032.1960

The stove is also decorated with pointed arches, Lombard bands, quatrefoils, and trefoils.

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Box stove, side, pointed arches and Lombard bands detail, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0032.1960

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Box stove, front, quatrefoils and Lombard band detail, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0032.1960

In his widely read Architecture of Country Houses (1850), Andrew Jackson Downing wrote that the style of one’s house should be emblematic of his or her values and beliefs.  If this stove features Gothic Revival motifs, what was the original owner trying to convey about him or herself?

Based on English and French architecture from the Middle Ages, the style is strongly associated with divinity.  The pointed arches, quatrefoils, trefoils, and Rose windows on NYSHA’s stove were ubiquitous on the facades of medieval European churches.

Westminster Abbey, north facade, 1090-1245, London, England

Maybe the stove had spiritual significance to the original owner.  Or, perhaps the owner was a history buff, who appreciated the stove as a link to the past.  Either way, the box stove was surely a visually appealing way to keep warm in the 1800s.

– Eric Feingold, Cooperstown Graduate Program 2014

Further reading:

Andrew Jackson Downing.  The Architecture of Country Houses:  Including Designs for Cottages, Farm Houses, and Villas, with Remarks on Interiors, Furniture, and the Best Modes of Warming and Ventilating.  New York:  D. Appleton & Co., 1850.

Milo M. Naeve.  Identifying American Furniture.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1981.  Pages 34-35.

Tammis K. Groft.  Cast With Style:  Nineteenth Century Cast-Iron Stoves from the Albany Area.  Albany:  Albany Institute of History and Art, 1981.

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