Historic New Jersey: Long Pond Ironworks
Long Pond Ironworks in Hewitt takes its name from the nearby “Long Pond,” a translation of the Native American name for Greenwood Lake. Set alongside the swiftly flowing Wanaque, or “Long Pond,” River, the only natural drainage from Greenwood Lake, the site offered a perfect combination of natural resources for making iron. Long Pond Ironworks was founded by the German ironmaster Peter Hasenclever.
With financial backing from English investors, Hasenclever purchased the existing Ringwood Ironworks in 1765, along with huge parcels of land, including the 55,000 acre Long Pond Tract. He then imported more than 500 European workers and their families to build iron-making plantations at Ringwood, Long Pond, and Charlottenburg in New Jersey, and at Cortland in New York.
From the wilderness they carved roads; built forges, furnaces, and homes; and created supporting farms. At Long Pond, they dammed the river to provide water power to operate the air blast for a furnace and a large forge. Robert Erskine, the ironmaster at Long Pond and Ringwood during the 1770s, took up the American cause during the Revolutionary War, supplying iron products to the Continental Army and serving as George Washington’s chief mapmaker until his death in 1780.
In 1807, Long Pond Ironworks was acquired by Martin J. Ryerson, owner of the Pompton Ironworks. The Ryerson family retained ownership until 1853, when they sold the properties to the industrialists Peter Cooper, Edward Cooper, and Abram S. Hewitt. The Cooper-Hewitt enterprise operated Long Pond Ironworks as part of the larger Trenton Iron Company. During the Civil War, two new blast furnaces, new waterwheels, and workers’ housing were built at Long Pond. The iron made here was found to be especially well suited to making guns for the Union Army.
Civil War era Water Wheel
The 1870s brought major changes in the American iron industry—notably, the rise of cheap steel manufacturing and the discovery of new coalfields in Pennsylvania and ore beds in the Midwest. Although Hewitt planned cost-saving improvements to keep his northern New Jersey ironworks in operation, on April 30, 1882, the last fires were blown out at Long Pond, ending more than 120 years of iron-making history at the site.
Although iron was no longer made at Long Pond after 1882, mining continued as a major industry. Through the turn of the twentieth century, residents of Hewitt, the village that had grown up around the ironworks, adapted to changing times. They built a new school and church between 1895 and 1905 and a new sawmill in 1913. Ice cutting on Greenwood Lake and recreation also became key industries. By the 1930s and the onset of the Great Depression, however, these industries were in decline. Residents of historic Hewitt began to move away, seeking opportunity elsewhere.
In 1957, the Ringwood Company donated the Long Pond Ironworks property to the State of New Jersey. In 1987, Long Pond Ironworks was dedicated as a State Park. Administered by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry, and maintained by the Friends of Long Pond Ironworks, Inc., the Long Pond Ironworks Historic District stands as a testament to the vital role our region has played in our local, state, and national history.
Long Pond Today
Long Pond Ironworks is a microcosm of our industrial and cultural heritage. Its history tells a fascinating tale of the ironmasters who developed the iron industry in northern New Jersey. Their contributions to history in times of peace and times of war reach far beyond the local economy. These nearly forgotten chapters of history deserve to be retold and remembered.
Within the 175-acre Long Pond Ironworks Historic District lie the ruins of three iron blast furnaces, including the original Colonial-era furnace built in 1766 and two larger furnaces built for Civil War production. Also visible are remains of iron forges, waterpower systems, and a variety of workers’ homes and commercial buildings that were critical parts of the iron-working village.
Long Pond also illustrates the evolution of iron-making technology in the remains of the three successive blast furnaces, the ore roaster, and the hydropower systems. The continual search for more efficient operations and materials is a story of industrial ingenuity at its best.
The workers’ story at Long Pond Ironworks is a saga of immigration, hard work, and adaptation to changing times. The company town of Hewitt grew, thrived and declined along with the fortunes of the iron industry in the Northeast. The personal and community struggle to adapt to an evolving economy is a theme in our cultural heritage from which we can still learn.
The historical value of Long Pond Ironworks is paralleled only by its natural beauty. The forests that were once cut down to make charcoal for the furnaces have returned, and the river that was once diverted into the hydropower systems again cascades over ancient rock formations. The Friends of Long Pond Ironworks are working to ensure that the Historical District is preserved and remembered for its contributions to our past, present, and future.