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A 100 Ton Discovery at the Port of Rochester

June 17th, 2013

Did an asteroid land in the parking lot at Ontario Beach? Not quite. This 100 ton hunk of slag is a remnant from an old steel mill. [PHOTO: Fred Amato]
David DiPonzio, a firefighter with the Lake Shore Fire District in Greece, sent me these photos (taken by friend Fred Amato) of a strange-looking crater in the middle of the parking lot external link at Ontario Beach Park. An asteroid? Uh, not quite. This may be the most interesting archeological find since RGRTA dug up the RKO Palace. That big rock you see in the center of the crater is actually a giant hunk of slag – left over from the iron or steel mill that once operated here…

Referred to as a 'button,' this is the byproduct of the iron-making process. The City is looking for a way to move it. [PHOTO: Fred Amato]
City of Rochester engineer, Jim McIntosh tells me that Rochester Gas & Electric was digging up the parking lot in order to move some electrical lines (in preparation for the construction of Rochester’s new marina) when they hit a literal bump in the road. “It’s called a ‘button’…leftover iron and other heavy metals and sands,” Jim says. The byproduct of the iron-making process.

Quinnesee Iron Mining Co. was located on this site as recently as 1926.
This 1926 plat map shows this to be the site of Quinnesee Iron Mining Co. The highlighted area is where the slag was unearthed and this must have been the location of a blast furnace external link.

Now, I know nothing about the iron or steel-making process so I turn to my good friend, Wikipedia which explains how fuel, iron ore and limestone were loaded into the top of the blast furnace. As the mixture moved downward it mixed with air and oxygen from the bottom of the furnace. The result was molten metal, and slag (the byproduct, a.k.a. “the button”). The slag external link is mostly the limestone or dolomite which has absorbed phosphate from the iron ore.

Approximate location of the slag 'button'. [IMAGE: Google]
The button’s weight is estimated at around 200,000lbs (100 TONS!). McIntosh says the City has solicited the advice of an expert who has worked with these on the Bethlehem Steel site external link in Buffalo. “We need to relocate it so that RG&E can finish their electrical work prior to Marina construction. How to move a 100 ton mass is something we don’t deal with often.”

That Wikipedia article may indicate one possible solution… Fertilizer! “Because of the slowly released phosphate content, and because of its liming effect, [slag] is valued as fertilizer in gardens and farms in steelmaking areas.”

So let’s get some farmers up to Charlotte and let them chip away at it. Problem solved! Jim, I’ll send you a bill ;-)

UPDATE: an earlier version of this article gave credit to David DiPonzio for taking the photos. They were actually taken by Fred Amato. Sorry Fred!

ANOTHER UPDATE: LaBella Associates, the engineering firm working with the City on this, may have found photos of the actual iron facility. The first image is the blast furnace. See the rivets on the steel ring down at the base? Engineers think they have found that steel ring in the parking lot. It goes down into the ground about 5 feet and will probably have to be dug out…

Quinnesee Iron Mining facility at Charlotte. [IMAGE VIA: LaBella Associates]

Quinnesee Iron Mining facility at Charlotte. [IMAGE VIA: LaBella Associates]

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 17th, 2013 at 7:58 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

19 Responses to “A 100 Ton Discovery at the Port of Rochester”

  1. Jay says:

    Just summon all of the city’s scrap metal collectors. They’d be foaming at the mouth to cash that in.

  2. Mike says:

    Very cool, Mike! My great-grandfather used to work there…but he said he always cleaned up his slag before leaving the furnace.

    If you happen to find any photos, I’d love to see them. My family’s history in America started in Charlotte.

  3. RaChaCha says:

    Folks at the Bethlehem Steel site indeed have lots of experience with slag. In fact, the lake side of the former plant is a mile-long “slagscape” that even has slag bridges and slag caves. It’s like the world after the apocalypse — you expect to come upon Charlton Heston along the beach, damning them all to Hell.

    C’mon out to Western New York and I’ll give you a tour :-)

  4. Fred Amato says:

    I have been told by a former old timer from Charlotte, Dwight Bliss, that he saw the large piece moved where it is today around 10 years ago when the Rochester Terminal was being built. He states that it is a large cast iron gear wheel from the Charlotte Blast Furnace. You can see some impressions around the circumference. The first owners were the Rochester Iron Manufacturing Company who completed building the blast furnace in Jan. of 1868 at a cost of $250,000. In 1879 the company had fallen into problems and it was purchased by Henry C. Roberts. When he died in 1885, His wife, Mrs. Roberts continued to manage and operate the plant until it closed in 1893. I was also told that the blast furnace was once called the Corrigna Iron Works but can’t verify this name. Most of this information comes from the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse. If anyone wants more information they will find a new display that was assembled by Mike May, Curator of Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse which has several photos of the former plant.

    By the way the photos you have on your site were taken by me and sent to Dave DiPonzio because I know of his interest in history.

  5. linda says:

    why don’t they just lay the wire around it ? seems more cost effective to me unless their is some technical/ scientific reason they cant .

  6. chase tyler says:

    Your satellite image is outdated, the swing bridge is there still!

  7. @Chase, my apologies. My satellite is in the shop.

  8. @Linda, I think they need to move it because there is planned development on this spot – as part of the new marina project.

  9. RaChaCha says:

    @RochesterSubway Mopar still making parts for those–?

  10. Tom says:

    you who found this digging!! the crew From Liberty Underground, doing the work for RG&E! Nice find Shannon & crew!!

  11. Joel Helfrich says:

    The City should incorporate the 100-ton “piece” of history into the Marina designs. See Seattle’s Gas Works Park: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/park_detail.asp?id=293.

  12. @Joel, I love that idea. This is not quite the same thing, but Gas Works is proof; there’s no reason why history like this shouldn’t be used to enhance this public project.

    Send your ideas to Jim McIntosh, Mcintosj@cityofrochester.gov.

  13. Mike says:

    I too love the idea of incorporating this somewhere, yes the “Button” is not pretty but with some pictures of the steel mill with captions, it could give us a glimpse into the past local history. But, for some reason instead of spending $5k to make a display, they would much rather spend $50K to make it disappear. Not being negative I just really dislike that historical stuff in Rochester tends to turn into parking lots…. no pun intended….. By the way love this site!!!!

  14. Curt Adams says:

    Another view of the blast furnace can be found here: http://mcnygenealogy.com/pics/picture.php?%2F1899%2Fcategories

  15. mattw118 says:

    I went by there tonight you can see the foundation, some of the bricks say “hearth & Bosh” on them. Those were bricks that lined a blast furnace…cool stuff.

  16. Vince Cardillo says:

    This is really interesting history! Thanks for posting this. The company is also mentioned in this article: http://www.crookedlakereview.com/articles/101_135/124summer2002/124shilling.html

  17. @Vince, thanks for that link! It’s great. Check out this passage…

    “Edwin Scrantom, son of Hamlet Scrantom, Rochester’s first settler in the historic hundred-acre tract, wrote a column called ‘Old Citizen’s Letters’ for the Democrat & American in the late 1860s. One poem dealt with Mr. Brackett’s Charlotte blast furnace. Composed by Mr. Scrantom, it’s both dramatic and poetic:

    The power, the power of a great blast furnace!
    Its tons of tons in the great iron frame,
    Its granite foundations and wall of the same,
    Its tons of engine and tons of beam,
    Its awful power of its driving steam,
    Its great solid cylinders, huge rolling wheels,
    Its shaftings of iron and harness of steel.
    Its ponderous power in motion unfurled,
    Like an earthquake walking to crunch the world!
    O’ the power, the power of a great blast furnace.

    Scrantom describes the Charlotte furnace’s location as being on a side hill overlooking a swampy area or ‘Morass of considerable extent near a huge feather bed of cat-tails.’ Environment Protection Agency personnel would jump up and down in near apoplexy today if they saw those wetlands between the river and the furnace being contaminated with ‘slag or cinder.’ This ‘congealed cheese of cinder when it was cooled was placed in a car and dumped into the flag-bottoms which after many years will be a solid foundation.’ That accounts for the low, flat area seen today between Lake Avenue and the municipal warehouses along the river. Should the Fast-Ferry project become a reality, the area is slated to become a parking lot and boat dock.”

  18. Vince Cardillo says:

    I also looked into James Brackett a little further. This man is pretty interesting:
    http://www.rochester.edu/College/REL/faculty/homerin/REL167/field_reports/brackett/brackett.html

    As an aside, this is all right around the time of the civil war and the reconstruction era.

    I love history!


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