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Foundry School Museum

The Foundry School Museum, operated by the Putnam County Historical Society was founded in 1906 by a group of prominent Philipstown residents and chartered the next year to be the first historical society in the county. Its dedicated early members were an illustrious group of Cold Spring residents: A. Augustus Healy, Gouverneur Paulding, William Henry Haldane, Robert Floyd-Jones, and William Wood. Galvanized by the desire to collect and preserve historical and cultural materials pertaining to the Philipstown area, the Hudson Highlands, and Putnam County, while both looking back to the nineteenth century and forward into the twentieth, they initially concentrated on the assemblage of information related to many county families, the compilation of a list of local Civil War veterans, and a study of the milestones on the Putnam County segment of the New York-to-Albany Post Road. During these early years, the members met in private homes where objects collected by the society were stored, as well as in libraries where they held special programs.

In 1960, with funds from the estate of a longtime supporter and noted writer Laura Spencer Porter Pope (1907-1957), the society acquired the Foundry School building built in about 1830, enlarged in the 1860s, and used for the education of the Foundry's teenage apprentices as well as its employees' children. In 1971, a wing was added to house the society's holdings related to the West Point Foundry. Since the establishment of this museum, the society's members, many of them extraordinarily informed about the history of the Highlands and the county, have continued to dedicate their time and talents as docents, researchers, and educators.

Today, the museum is owned by a not-for-profit coporation under the oversight of the Department of Education of the State of New York. Governed by a board of trustees composed mostly of local residents accomplished mostly in business and the professions, the museum is staffed by an executive director, a curator, an education director, and administrative assistant, and a part-time computer consultant.

The purpose of the society is to collect and preserve historical and cultural materials pertaining to the Philipstown area, the West Point Foundry, and Putnam County, and make these materials available to the public. To fulfill this mission, the society maintains and administers the Foundry School Museum, archives, a library of genealogical records; provides regulated public access to its collections; and plans, develops, and presents informational and educational programs for the public.

The West Point Foundry collection of artifacts, documents, photographs, and blueprints is central to the Mission of the Putnam County Historical Society and Foundry School Museum. The collection of documents began in the early years of the Society before there was a Museum building. Chartered in 1908, meetings of the Board of Directors, members and volunteers were held in individuals' homes and later in the Butterfield Library, where some cabinets were dedicated to the growing collection. In 1960 the Foundry School, built in 1830 for the Foundry apprentices, was purchased by the Society as a facility for the historical collections and eventually as the Museum. The collection of furnishings, china, glass, photographs, paintings from members and friends and especially artifacts and documents from the Foundry, gifts from its former management and workers' descendants, began in earnest.

About the Foundry

The West Point Foundry was built in 1817 as an iron casting business for ordnance and domestic production. The primary incentive for such a business rose from the realization that during the recent War of 1812, the United States military was drastically short of the cannon/shot and rifles. The West Point Foundry’s role at least in part was derived from the government’s desire to provide a more secure ordnance production. The site selected was Cold Spring, New York because of its access to the Hudson River and its proximity to other iron businesses in the area . A second shop, the New York Shop, located in Manhattan, was the accessory business to the Foundry.

The foundry throughout its operation produced domestic hardware, engines for ships, locomotives, machines for factories, an iron lighthouse, canal equipment and ordnance. Under the supervision of Robert P. Parrott, the developer of the Parrott Gun, the ordnance production by the foundry became acclaimed as an important determinant in the success of the Union winning the Civil War in 1865.

At the end of the Civil War the Foundry began to decline due to the reduction of orders from the military and competition from a developing industry, the Steel Industry. The foundry was purchased by the Cornell brothers in 1897. Cornell was famed for their production of machines for sugar production and factories of similar means. The Foundry finally closed in 1914.

The Foundry site then housed the Astoria Silk Works until a fire closed all operations at the site. The Deuterium Corporation (1960), a Hilton resort developer, while unable to use the site, did open the door for a preservation process and was instrumental in having the site placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Specifics on visiting the Foundry School Museum were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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