Califfornia Furnace, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania


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California - Is on Rolling Rock Run in Ligonier Township. It was built by Col. J. D. Mathiot and Dr. S. P. Cummings in 1853(s&t). A new sign on the furnace says it was built in 1850(rp). Per s&t it was on Furnace Run, which was known in 1853 as California Run(s&t). Newer maps indicate Rolling Rock Run(rp). It was a cold blast charcoal furnace built with relatively obsolete technology for its time(jm). This was the last furnace to be built in the county. The furnace was not successful due to market conditions and, in 1858, was sold to Alexander Cavan who invested a fortune in it but realized very little return(s&t). Boucher's History of Westmoreland County says that, because the furnace was built on the level, a series of ramps were used to take the burden to the top of the furnace. However, a picture of the furnace in the history is actually a picture of Ross Furnace. Since California is by a hill with traces of charcoal and ore still here, the account of the charging ramps is (probably) not true(s&t).
When s&t visited this furnace in the 1960's the furnace was in ruins, a pile about 15 feet high and thirty feet wide. The curve of the inner lining could be seen. A sign at that time said the furnace was built in 1838 but most authorities agree on the 1853 date of construction. When we visited the furnace in 1981 we found an almost perfect outer construction, which differed from the s&t account. The furnace was rebuilt in 1966 by General Richard K. Mellon and Constance Prosser Mellon with George E. Carr III as restoration superintendent. This explains why it is now in excellent condition. The wheel pit and millrace are visible The furnace looks very much like Ross furnace, and is probably of the same design since one of the builders of both furnaces was J. D. Mathiot. (P)(V)(rp-1978, jm-2003,rp,ph-2004).
California can be found by going to Laughlintown on US30 east of Ligonier. In Laughlinton turn south at the hotel (flashing light). Proceed on this road, over the hill (with golf course on right) and downhill, to a right turn (1.2 miles) near Westmoreland Furnace. Proceed another 0.3 miles to the foot of the hill to a sharp left turn and cross the creek over a covered bridge. 40 12.040'N - 79 12.747'W Continue on this road about 0.7 miles and look to the left and you will see the furnace in a nicely maintained meadow between the creek and hillside.. Cross the footbridge and the furnace is right there.
GPS Coordinates 40 11.469'N - 79 12.548'W (P)(V)(rp/ph 2004)

Covered Bridge on road to California Furnace - August 2004

California Furnace - August 2004

California Furnace - August 2004

. Dam above California Furnace - August 2004

California Furnace Special Sources:
A Guide to the Old Stone Blast Furnaces of Western Pennsylvania, Myron B. Sharp and William H. Thomas (s&t)
Pat & Michael Hom, San Diego, California
Copyright Richard Parks, January 14, 2010