Iron making in Oswego spanned a period of 28 years. The pipe foundry operated for an additional 34 years after the furnace shut down. Although it has been said that the iron industry was short-lived, 28 years was actually a typical lifespan for a charcoal iron works.1 The Oregon iron industry was established at the end of the Civil War when the era of charcoal iron making was already coming to an end and charcoal furnaces were being replaced by steel mills fueled by coke and anthracite.2
The Oregon Iron & Steel Company remained a registered corporation until 1989. In the end, the company’s most striking achievement was the transformation of Oswego from a smoky industrial village into a lakeside retreat with winding boulevards, a country club and golf course, and a hunt club laid out on 14,000 acres of timberland that once fueled the furnace.
In 1960 the Oregon Iron & Steel Company sold its remaining assets (the dam on the lake, the power plant on Oswego Creek, the canal, and the diversion dam on the Tualatin River) to the Lake Oswego Corporation, an organization of lake front property owners who assumed management of the lake and these facilities.
The site of the original furnace remained in iron company ownership until 1945, when the City of Oswego purchased the property for its first public park. The park was later named George Rogers Park in memory of a beloved city councilman. The furnace was restored in 2010 and today is the only surviving charcoal blast furnace west of the Rocky Mountains.
The sites of the second furnace, the pipe foundry, and the Prosser Mine were eventually acquired by the city and added to its park system. In 2012 all of these sites were incorporated into the Oswego Iron Heritage Trail.
1. Anne Kelly Knowles, Mastering Iron: The Struggle to Modernize an American Industry, 1800-1868 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013) 44.
2. Robert B. Gordon, American Iron: 1607-1900 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 260-261.