1010 Irondale Furnace Trail
Attention to all running enthusiasts and nature lovers of Mountain Brook: There’s a trail you may be missing.
The Irondale Furnace Trail is at the site where the Irondale Furnace once operated on Stone River Road in Cherokee Bend. It is one of the more “hidden” trails in Mountain Brook.
The man originally behind the Irondale Furnace was Wallace S. McElwain. He started his career training in a gun factory in New York and then moved to work in a foundry in Ohio.
He then moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, where he operated Jones, McElwain and Company Iron Foundry. He was well known throughout the Southeast for his exquisite cast iron designs, many of which can still be seen around New Orleans today.
McElwain received the first order for the production of rifles and cannons from the Confederacy after the war began. After the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, Union forces began approaching Holly Springs and he moved his operations to Jefferson County.
The work on the new foundry, called the Cahaba Iron Works, began in the spring of 1863. Extending some 41 feet in height, the furnace differed slightly from other furnaces of that era in that it was constructed of heavy masonry at the base and of brick, banded with iron ties, on the mantle.
The blast furnace was built to supply pig iron to the arsenal in Selma. The facility was built over 2,146 acres and included a tramway, quarry, ore mine, blacksmith’s shops, foundry, employee housing and stables and a commissary. The Irondale Furnace, as it became known, was attacked by federal cavalry under Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson and his “Wilson’s Raiders” on March 29, 1865 en route to Selma. The commissary was spared. The old commissary can still be seen on Montevallo Road between Euclid Avenue and Greenbriar Lane with an historical marker listing the site as the oldest house in Shades Valley.
Irondale Furnace was the first iron furnace in Alabama to go back into operation after the Civil War when it was rebuilt in 1866. It operated until 1873.
While the furnace is no longer here today, the Irondale Furnace Trail leads to where the furnace once stood. An historical marker explaining the history and importance of the Irondale Furnace sits at the beginning of the trail and, as you continue down the trail, plaques with details of the furnace are placed on either side.
Benches are available in the open grassy areas and provide a relaxing, peaceful sitting area. Dog stations are now available on site so visitors can bring their family pets.
The trail is approximately 1.34 miles long from the beginning at Stone River Road to the ending point on Old Leeds Road.
To reach the trail, drive down Old Leeds Road to its intersection with old Leeds Lane (across the road from the Mountain Brook Club golf course). Drive to Stone River Road and turn left. There are parking spaces available on the right side of the road.
So when the weather turns cooler, grab your family and pets and head down to the Irondale Furnace Trail. It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors, while learning more about history in Mountain Brook.