Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site Saugus, Mass. Visited: April 16, 2004 NPS Site Visited: 25 of 353 NPS Website
WHAT IS IT? The site of North Americaís first iron-making facility, originally built in 1646.
BEAUTY (6/10) Believe it or not, the Saugus Iron Works NHS is a peaceful oasis. The blast furnace, the water wheel and blacksmith shop, all reconstructed before the site was acquired by the National Parks, create a picturesque backdrop to protected marshland. Cardinals, small sparrows and other birds noisily prepared for dusk while we were there, blocking out any sounds of the town around us. The wood from the mill combined with the fresh grass smelled like spring.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (5/10) The ironworks introduced a new industry to the New World. Buildings at the site are reproductions.
CROWDS (6/10) We arrived late in the day. A few people were leaving as we entered the Visitor Center. We strolled through the site by ourselves. A pack of about 50 Boy Scouts and their leaders arrived unannounced and expecting a full tour 15 minutes before closing. The reactions from the two young rangers were subdued and conciliatory. We would have been much less gracious if we were getting ready to go home on a Friday evening.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5) Brown NPS signs lead the way from the highway. Free parking in a lot large enough to fit a caravan of Boy Scouts. The Visitor Center and bathrooms are accessible, but we couldnít find an accessible path down to the actual water wheel and mill, the main points of interest at the site.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5) Located in the corner of the Visitor Center, good selection, but not much space to browse.
COSTS (4/5) Free.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (4/5) Two friendly Rangers were in the Visitor Center, another one was in the Museum, practicing for a school presentation he was giving the following day. Rangers operate the water wheel and furnace as part of the guided tours.
The Ranger who greeted us was wiped out from a day full of school groups and smelting iron, but she still took the time to help us plan our weekend. She made a few calls while we were walking around the site and had a list of Patriot's Day activities waiting for us when we came back to the Visitor Center.
TOURS/CLASSES (8/10) Tours are very limited until the summer season and more staff arrive. The next available tour wasnít until 2 p.m. the following day so we missed out, which is a shame because Iím guessing the tour is pretty cool.
There is a small Museum with an interpretive video, which was well done. We especially liked the rowdy Scottish workers in the film.
FUN (6/10) We enjoyed our conversations with the Rangers and our time at Saugus. The beautiful weather definitely influenced this score.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (7/10) Yes, but donít miss the guided tour like we did. We suggest going later in spring but before it gets too hot in the summer. After all, it is a furnace.
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