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Group restoring historic NY mine town

TAHAWUS -- A preservation group is restoring a 19th-century stone iron works at the headwaters of the Hudson River in the Adirondack High Peaks, as well as the nearby house where Teddy Roosevelt was staying before his dramatic midnight ride to the presidency.

The buildings, listed on the state and federal registers of historic places, are part of the 10,000-acre Tahawus Tract acquired by the Open Space Institute from Houston-based National Lead Industries in 2003. The state bought most of the tract from the group in 2008 and added it to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, but the group retained the remnants of the iron works and the collapsing buildings of the mining town of Adirondack.

This summer, interpretive panels will be installed at the site 100 miles north of Albany as trails and viewing areas near completion, said Katie Stone, lands project manager for the Manhattan-based Open Space Institute.

"This is the world's best example of a 19th-century iron ore furnace," Stone said on a recent visit to the 258-acre site, which includes the vestiges of the Adirondack Iron and Steel Company.

Adirondack historian Philip Terrie said the 50-foot-tall blast furnace was built between 1849 and 1853. Crushed ore was loaded in from the top along with charcoal and lime and fired, with the heat bolstered to 2,500 degrees by blasts of air from a wheelhouse powered by the Hudson River.

Molten iron ran out the bottom into sand molds to form bars -- called pigs -- that were loaded onto boats, destined for the company's steel works in New Jersey.

The innovative charcoal-burning furnace represented an important milestone in American industrial technology, Terrie said.

Down the road is the yellow clapboard house known as the McNaughton House, which originally was a bank in the mining village and later was used by a hunting club called the Tahawus Club. In 1901, Vice President Teddy Roosevelt was staying there and had climbed Mount Marcy with a party of 10 when a guide brought him a telegram saying President William McKinley was dying from an assassin's bullet wound.

Roosevelt hiked more than three hours down the mountain and sped off on his famous nighttime horse-and-wagon ride along foggy Adirondack dirt roads to the North Creek Station, where he learned McKinley was dead and he was now president.

The restored 1854 building may be used as a ranger outpost as well as a historic site, Stone said.

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