A 7.5-ton steel sculpture, inspired by a giant wooden water wheel that once powered a 19th century Cold Spring iron foundry, was unveiled Tuesday as work continued on turning the site into a park focused on history.

Finishing touches were put in place Tuesday afternoon on the installation, which is 36 feet in diameter, at the 87-acre Kemble Avenue property, which was closed in June as construction crews moved in to start a $3.6 million makeover. The structure sits in the exact spot occupied by the original wheel and matches the original dimensions.

The design is intended to evoke the mid-1800s, when a munitions plant on the site was an important employer in Putnam County.

"It gives you a sense of the scale," said Rita Shaheen, parks director for Scenic Hudson, the Poughkeepsie-based environmental group that owns the park and is overseeing its transformation into the West Point Foundry Preserve.

"By having the wheel at its full height, you will get a sense that this was a very large operation. And yet, you'll see that it fits nicely into the landscape."

The wheel is anchored to original stone walls that have been restored, an undertaking that involved a team of archaeologists, structural engineers, landscape architects and preservation architects.

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The park is expected to open next fall with a picnic area, a 50-car parking lot, marked trails, educational displays related to its historic past and restoration of the only remaining original structure, a two-story brick building that will house administrative staff. The 2013 ribbon-cutting will be just in time to celebrate Scenic Hudson's 50th anniversary.

Sheehan said the site did not sustain damage from superstorm Sandy, other than losing a few trees.

In its heyday, the foundry made Parrott guns, an artillery piece that helped the Union win the Civil War. Immigrant workers were brought in from Ireland, Italy and other European countries to settle the village, which is filled today with shops, restaurants and day trippers from New York City.

Cold Spring, already Putnam's No. 1 tourist spot, benefits from having a Metro-North train station that runs from Grand Central Terminal directly into the riverfront village. The Hudson line station also includes a ramp that leads directly to the preserve.

The train station logs about 6,000 to 7,000 monthly off-peak riders during the peak summer months, compared to about 4,000 per month during the winter, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North.