The Virginia Furnace, also known as the Muddy Creek Furnace and the Josephine Furnace, is a historic landmark, the cut-stone ruin of a blast furnace, the centerpiece of roadside park near Albright, West Virginia, in north-central Preston County. The furnace was built in 1854 and was a charcoal-fueled furnace used to smelt iron from ore mined in the west flank of Briery Mountain. The furnace is a truncated pyramid of cut stone approximately 30 feet tall and 34 feet square at its base. A pile of scrap iron and a pit in which a water wheel once turned, powering a blowing engine, are also among the obvious features left at the site. In nominating the park and furnace to the National Register of Historic Places, historian Lee Maddex vividly described the functionality of the landmark in 1999:
“Built against a hillside, the top of the furnace was charged with alternating layers of iron ore, charcoal and limestone. A wooden bridge connected the furnace to the lullside, while a water powered blowing engine furnished a low pressure air injection or ‘blast’ that was blown into the furnace to produce cast iron. Once smelting started it was a continuous twenty-four hours a day process.
“Every eight hours or so molten iron was run or ‘cast’ from the bottom of the furnace into a sand bed with voids. The iron filled the voids forming ‘pigs’ that, once cooled, were broken up and hauled to market. An open-sided wooden shed would have likely covered the sand bed or ‘casting floor’ permitting work in all types of weather. Above the furnace there would have been a number of buildings needed for storage, at the minimum a charcoal shed. Today none of these structures except the furnace survive. “
The Virginia Furnace Today
The furnace operated until the 1890s and was the last charcoal iron furnace to operate in northern West Virginia. In 1933, the site was acquired by the Kingswood Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which created a roadside park, now Muddy Creek Park, at the furnace site. Park structures, including picnic pavilions, were then added. A trail leads visitors from a small parking area along WV-26 to the furnace area where interpretive signage has been installed.