Everyone knows the Statue of Liberty in New York. But did you ever hear where it was casted – at least part of it? In a blast furnace of a village in northwestern France called Dommartin-le-Franc. How that happened and why this place left its mark elsewhere in the world is a story told by the Metallurgic Park, a museum with several branches in the region. An elaborate multimedia show brings the almost intact historic blast furnace of 1834 to life, culminating in a tapping procedure that is accompanied by most authentic sound effects. The show also involves the water wheel once used to fuel the bellows. The former coal deposit which is only a footstep away boasts another multimedia attraction. It hosts a cube of 49 square metres in size that takes visitors on a virtual trip through more than 3.000 years of the region’s iron industries, focusing on the heyday in the 19th and 20th centuries when skillfully casted fountains, statues, vases and decorative objects were exported on a global scale. Quite a lot of these top exports, including the stove ‘Maillard’, are part of the restored coal deposit’s exhibition. Outdoor exhibits from operating local and regional foundries clearly underline that the regional tradition of decorative casting is still kept high.
Iron ore, timber and water made the valleys of the rivers Blaise and Marne a perfect place for the production of cast iron. Just between Cirey-sur-Blaise and Éclaron, covering a distance of roughly 30 kilometres, you can find the remains of 25 historic industrial facilities, including blast furnaces, forges, ore breakers and ore washing plants. The industrial history of Dommartin-le-Franc goes back more than 500 years and is thoroughly pushed forward in the 19th century by Charles Le Bachellé. Thanks to a marriage he inherits the so called lower plant in 1820, then comprising of a blast furnace, two storehouses, ore breakers and stables. He adds a cupola furnace and, in 1834, builds a second blast furnace just 300 metres away which is today the core of the Metallurgic Park. A third blast furnace is constructed in 1837, and five years later the site’s annual output amounts to 789 tons of cast iron. Following Le Bachellés‘ death, his son introduces commodity-type products and earns considerable success with the stove ‘Maillard’. Nevertheless he nearly enters bankruptcy by the end of the 19th century, and only his brother-in-law Ferdinand de Chanlaire averts the liquidation by a company takeover. He neglects the blast furnaces, installs two more cupola furnaces and definitely relies on finished goods as main business. Thanks to the craftsmanship of the local casters he is able to start co-operations with notable art nouveau artists which in turn stimulate exports. Between 1895 and 1913 the company is fundamentally modernized by the installation of turbines, gasoline engines and the construction of a railway. A catalogue of 1936 lists some thousand products, with richly ornamented, enamelled, and hand-painted heaters and household items standing out. In December 1987 the enterprise ceases to operate. Today, Dommartin-le-Franc is the best preserved site of the French 19th century’s metalworking industries whereas the blast furnace is among the most important industrial monuments of that time.
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April to November:
during school holidays Tuesday - Sunday 2pm-6.30pm
outside school holidays Friday - Sunday 2pm-6pm