Iron industry kilns slated as gift to Amenia

Restored kilns in the Deep Hollow area of Wassaic, iron industry relics, would be donated to Amenia as a gift.

Leila Hawken

Iron industry kilns slated as gift to Amenia

AMENIA — Responding to the owner’s eagerness to donate fully restored and historically significant Gridley charcoal kilns to the town, the Town Board agreed at its special meeting on Monday, July 1, to ask the town attorney to draft a resolution to be considered at their next meeting on Thursday, July 18.

Representing the owner, Eric Bommer, was Bernie Leighton who oversaw much of the restoration project to prepare the kilns for transfer to the town as a gift to residents and visitors alike. Leighton said that Bommer would like to complete the transfer before the end of July.

The owner will provide continued site maintenance for a two-year period, but after that, the town would need to assume the maintenance of the site.

Located in the Deep Hollow area of Wassaic, the twin kilns were used to make charcoal to be used in the area’s iron industry in the early to mid-19th century. Made of stone, the kilns stand 30 feet in diameter with an entrance six feet in height. The kilns continued in use until the 1920s, according to historical society records.

During discussion, councilmember Nicole Ahearn raised some points to be resolved in advance or included in the resolution, including the dates when the site will be open to visitors, details of the Amenia Historical Society’s cooperation and participation, quarterly reports to the town board, hours of operation, and maintenance by the highway department.

Town Supervisor Leo Blackman shared concern for overloading the historical society with the reality of monitoring and maintaining the site. The Town Board could imagine that the historical society might arrange school tours and small events. Blackman suggested that site needs might be resolved as they arise.

Leighton commented that the kiln site would be closed between Nov. 1 and March 15, negating a need for snow removal. He added that parking will be for the kilns only, noting that mowing or weed whacking would be minimal.

Councilmember’s goals

Having given what she described as careful consideration to her service as an elected member of the Town Board, councilmember Rosanna Hamm shared thoughts with the board before the close of the meeting, focusing on what she deems important to her.

Her first priority, Hamm said, would be to protect the health and safety of the people of Amenia, recognizing also that the town must move forward.

Her concern, she said, is that the town must move forward at a “fiscally responsible pace,” citing the new Town Garage and the Water District’s needs as immediate.

“Transparency is huge,” Hamm said, noting a priority to fill board and committee vacancies promptly and to publish meeting minutes in a timely manner. She added her desire to see all town board and committee meetings streamed and recorded for viewing by residents.

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