It was once the largest manufacturer of pig iron in the world. It stands today as a monument to the Industrial Revolution and where the magic began for Birmingham. In this History of Birmingham we take a look at Sloss Furnaces.
The Beginning of Sloss Furnaces
Sloss Furnaces was created in 1881 by James Withers Sloss and within only 2 years is producing 250 – 300 tons of iron per day. In the 1920’s Sloss Furnaces was rebuilt allowing them to more than double production, making up to 900 tons of iron every day. The furnaces ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The location for Sloss Furnaces was perfect because of the numerous train tracks that surrounded the site. This ease of transportation allowed Birmingham to become the first industrial city built without being near a body of water, which was the most efficient method for moving products and people at the time. Another factor in the success of not only Sloss but all of Birmingham’s Iron industry was that this is the only place in the world where you find all three products needed to make iron (iron ore, limestone, and coal) all within 30 miles of each other.
End of the Furnace
Sloss Furnaces fully shut down in 1971 due to several factors. The old age of the facility was becoming an issue, competing foreign companies with fewer regulations began making iron a lot cheaper, and the entire iron industry begins to decline as products make from plastic begin to replace things normally made from iron. Plans were eventually set in motion to demolish Sloss Furnaces but when the people of Birmingham discovered these plans and they refused to accept this fate for one of the city’s landmarks and began a movement to save Sloss Furnaces.
A group of citizens banded together and helped form the Sloss Furnaces Association which helped save the site, raised awareness and ultimately led to the city of Birmingham putting forward a vote. Ultimately a 3 million dollar bond was approved to preserve the site. Work began in 1971 to restore and preserve Sloss Furnace and the site reopened in 1983 as a museum. Today Sloss hosts tours of the facility, educational programs for schools and communities, and the metal arts program where artists create iron works of art in a very similar process to how the original furnaces operated. Sloss also hosts several seasonal activities, food festivals, concerts and events but the largest has to be Slossfest, a giant music and arts festival held every July.
This content sponsored by Adamson Ford
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