PennDesign News

Posted June 27, 2016

PennDesign's Efforts to Save Historic Furnaces Featured in 'The Morning Call'

Founded in 1866 in the Lehigh Valley, Coplay Cement Co. was a leading producer of portland cement, helping the United States surpass England in producing more cement than any country in the world by the 1920s. As Sarah M. Wojcik reported recently in The Morning Call, Professor Frank Matero and recent alumnus Preston Hull (MSPV'16) are working to preserve Coplay's facilities as a vital link to Pennsylvania's industrial past.

For more than 100 years, the Saylor kilns have stood as red-bricked sentinels, protecting Coplay's ties to the cement industry that gave it life.

But the nine aging structures in Lehigh County-owned Saylor Park won't last forever. It's an uncomfortable truth that resurfaces every few years as the county struggles to obtain the money needed to save the old furnaces — which appear to be the last of their kind in the world.

One of the kilns is surrounded by scaffolding, offering the first clue in more than a decade that there could be a future for the historic furnaces. The work was made possible by a $200,000 federal grant that leaders hope will spur funding for the remaining structures. In addition, a team from the University of Pennsylvania has secured $800,000 in private funds to study ways to preserve not only the kilns but also the cement and slate industries that once defined the area.

Read the full story on The Morning Call's website

Read Preston Hull's thesis at Scholarly Commons.