The Cupola Building (p1)

The slag that is removed from the reverberatory furnaces contains as much as 18 percent copper – too rich to simply dump as waste and not nearly rich enough to re-work in the furnaces with any success. In order to capture these last remaining drops of copper the slag is re-processed in a second type of furnace. This alternate furnace is housed in its own building, known as the Cupola Building.

The Cupola Building is more aptly described as a sprawling complex then a single building, an interconnected labrynth of structures each serving a particular purpose. Besides the building housing the blast furnace itself, the complex is also home to the smelter’s boiler plant, electrical plant, engine house, pump house, slag house, and even a blacksmith shop. In the photo above you can make out the boiler plant (which consists of two separate buildings), pump house and Cupola building proper.

From the rear the sprawling nature of the Cupola Complex is even more evident. The building in the center is the smelter’s engine house and electrical plant, with the pump house extending to the left and the blacksmith shop to the right (behind the shed). Atop it all is the back end of the Cupola building, where slag is removed to the nearby waste pile by means of an elevated trestle.

While we will be exploring all of this sprawling complex, our focus fist is on the building which housed the blast furnace itself. The original Cupola Building – as seen here – was another one of the Quincy Smelting Work’s original structures, built in 1898. The building’s main purpose was to house the smelter’s blast furnace – known as a cupola furnace – along with the complimenting material bins and charging equipment. In the photo above you can make out the cupola’s smokestack sticking up out of the roof line.

In later years the Cupola Building was renovated and altered to make room for new equipment and processes. Today the building, though still similar to the original, features a taller and more broad roof-line as well as a metal clad “cap”. These additions were made to make room for a new slag removal system added in 1907.

The Cupola Building’s most characteristic feature is its three story tower set along its front facade. This tower is actually an elevator shaft, used to haul slag, coal, and limestone up to the cupola’s charging floor and storage bins. Tram cars full of material would be brought into the large set of doors on the first floor, where it would be pushed onto the elevator platform. The mineral and car would then be pulled up to the third floor were it could then dump its cargo into the relevant bin. The iron-clad cap is a later addition to the elevator, possibly added to house a newer hoisting engine for the elevator.

This is an exquisitely detailed building, one of the rare sandstone building’s Quincy erected. Besides the sandstone arches above the windows, the building also featured smooth faced sandstone quoins inner set with rough faced versions showcasing the stone’s native white stripes. Interestingly the window sills are made of wood and not stone, which was normally Quincy’s MO in its other surface buildings.

At some point these cross bolts were also added to the tower, bolts not present on the original structure seen in the earlier photo. Either these were placed to help hold the tower together, or they were part of a later elevator upgrade placed within the tower.

While the building’s front facade is intact, its roof has not survived the years as well. One too many winters have collapsed the roof completely, dropping it all in a large pile of debris atop the buildings upper floor. This floor was once used to load the building’s collection of mineral bins, one of which can be seen peeking up out of the wreckage. In the back was a second tram elevator, its iron-clad machine housing amazingly still intact atop the remnants of the building’s roof. Behind the door is beginning of the slag trestle which makes its way out over the railroad tracks and to a slag pile next door.

Here’s a closer look at that third floor and its mineral bins. There were eight bins in total, used to store slag, coal, and limestone. They were filled from above and emptied via chutes at their base, chutes that fed directly into the charging floor (the row of windows seen here).

With nothing much else to be seen from outside, it was now time to take a look on the inside….

The Quincy Smelter is private property and is open to the public only during special Quincy Smelter Association’s tours and events.

If you have any photos of your own to contribute to the discussion, make sure to post them over at the Copper Country forum’s Quincy Smelter Thread.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *