Saugus Iron Works

Saugus, MA
Among one of the most interesting, and often overlooked, historical sites in Massachusetts is the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site.


1 Mile

Hike Time

1.5 Hours

December 28, 2020 – Had to find a drier place to walk last week and decided to go over to Saugus and visit the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site. The park is closed for the season but see below for the Park’s digital self-guided tour video. Check out their website for more information. 

Don’t miss the  nature walk nestled in along the banks of the river on the far side of the property just beyond the Blacksmith’s Shop. This is the first time I have been here and it’s on our list for a return visit for Spring 2021. Expect a little over a 1-mile walk spread over 9 acres of land in total.

Saugus Iron Works Digital Tour

The water wheel.

Saugus Iron Works

I think I need another haircut!

 The small shed in front of the Turning Basin dock was used to store inventory before it was loaded onto flat-bottomed boats called “shallops” and transported down the Saugus River. The boats were also used to bring in supplies and other raw materials. 

Giant bellows – there are 2 of them side by side – kept the fire going inside the blast furnace. The intense heat inside the furnace melted the bog ore into more refined iron formed into what they called “pig bars”, The bars were then remolded into pots, kettles, skillets, firebacks, salt-pans, nails, and other useful products. The furnace was lit day and night for months at a time. The ironworks operated on this site from 1646-1670.

 The river was dammed upstream to make a reservoir to redirect the water needed to turn the water wheels which powered the bellows, trip hammer, and the rolling and slitting machine. The slitting machine created flat pieces of iron that could be used by blacksmiths to make nails and other tools. There is an interesting metal relief near the path on the upper level of the property which shows the reservoir, buildings, and river and how their juxtaposition made it possible to produce the cast iron. 

This house was purchased in 1915 by the photographer Wallace Nutting. He restored his  “Broadhearth” as a tourist attraction to showcase his antique furniture and photos. Many of his photos can be found in antique stores in the area – we have a few in the Old Slade Homestead.

At the peak of his career, he employed over 200 colorists who added color to his photographs. He later sold the house to an antique dealer from Boston. In 1943 work was underway to save the site of the original Hammersmith Iron Works by local townspeople who formed the First Iron Works Association. It was one of the earliest preservation projects undertaken in New England. It finally opened to the public in 1954 under the name of Saugus Iron Works.

The front door of Iron Works House faces the parking lot and entrance to the Iron Works property. There are chairs and picnic tables to the right of the house for resting and relaxing. The restrooms are not open at this time of the year so plan ahead. Dogs are allowed on the property – but they have to be leashed. As always, before you go don’t for get to check the weather, the website (maps/updates), that your phone is charged, and you have some water. There is some restoration going on at the park right now and it will be interesting to see the results on our next visit.

I’m in love with my new Christmas gift…a lens ball. Thank you Lorin!

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