IndustryQuincy Smelting Works

The Casting Plant (p1)

When the new No.3/No.5 combo furnace was installed at the Quincy Smelting Works, a large component of the new system was an automatic casting mechanism. This machine was housed in a large steel-framed extension added to the east end of the No.5 furnace building, a structure known as the Casting Plant. Together with the No.3/No.5 combo furnace the casting plant completed a highly efficient and cost effective system installed at a time of shrinking profits and low copper production. The result was a smelting plant that managed to stay in business for another half century.

Unlike the smelting works’ original structures which were erected with sandstone, the casting plant reflected a leaner time and was instead built using steel. Standing over three stories in height the building’s steel skeleton was in-filled with a generous supply of large windows, most spanning two stories in height. Most of these windows were for the sake of ventilation, as the casting process produced a great deal of heat and steam within the building’s spacious confines.

Though one of the last buildings erected at the site, the casting plant today is in rough shape. Most of its windows have since been shot out, and a great deal of the corrugated siding has fallen victim to gravity.

Though more than three stories in height, the cavernous innards of the structure was mostly filled with nothing but empty space – which is easily discerned by taking a look into its gaping window openings.

A large set of doors sits at the building’s eastern end. This opening was most likely used to remove equipment for maintenance or repair, or to bring new equipment into the building. Finished ingots would have been transported out a similar set of doors in the buildings south side – closer to the furnace itself.

What’s interesting in this picture is the glimpse of the large overhead crane seen through the windows, a crane that would have ran the entire length of the building.

The travelling crane was one of only two large pieces of equipment that called the casting house home. At the building’s far western end was the No.5 furnace itself, whose fiery copper entrails would have been tapped and sent to the neighboring casting machine. An automated casting machine – a customized Walker unit – takes up a majority of the western half of the structure. The rest of the building’s interior is simply open floor space, where copper ingots would be collected before moving off to the neighboring warehouse.

After taking a loop around the building’s rather bland exterior facades, we preceded inside to see what was left of the old casting machinery that once called the building home…

If you have any photos of your own of the smelter or wish to contribute your own exploration stories, make sure to post them over at the Copper Country forum’s Quincy Smelter Thread!

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  1. actually the switch from fancy stone blgs to these type of stark steel sheds by the 1920s was not solely unique to Quincy’s desire to cut costs in the face of shrinkage…this was a trend across the board for all industrial blgs.

    it is easier, cheaper, and faster to build, demolish, modify, or maintain one of these steel sheds than it is a traditional stone mill blg. not to mention when they DO tear it down, now they can reap the instant cash return of whatever the steel scrap value is at that time. it just makes more economic sense, and architecturally they allow for better lighting & ventilation via the huge expanses of window sash, because the walls themselves are not loadbearing. thus, it improves your productivity because (in theory!) better lighting and ventilation makes for a safer, happier, more efficient workforce.

  2. Adam, good points, I’ve wanted to say something about the shift in building materials as well. My limited research was pointing to the shift being caused less by the problems at the companies and more driven by external market factors. Looking through the info on the stone quarries from this fine website the stone companies’ heyday ended in 1909. I’m going to have to assume that the cost of cut stone got a little expensive after that. As well companies favorably viewing the technological advancements offered by the steel buildings, albeit at the expense of aesthetics.

    I haven’t been able to find anything definitive on the subject so if anybody out there might know of some work by industrial archeologists please post a link.

  3. I did find it interesting reading the Quincy Stock Holder reports, when the mills at Mason were expanded to make more room for the various tables to extract more copper from the rock in the 1917-1919 time frame, they had no choice but to use concrete and brick for the expansions as steel was not available due to WWI. So just think of what may have remained at Mason if steel was used instead.

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