Michigan Roadside Attractions: Ardis Furnace Ruins, Iron Mountain
Michigan Roadside Attractions is a periodic feature on Travel the Mitten that will explore the many interesting things that can be found on the highways, byways and back roads of Michigan, ranging from the interesting to unusual.
The ruins of the Ardis Furnace in Iron Mountain are incredibly easy to visit, yet are hidden in plain sight in such a way that even some longtime residents are unaware of their existence. Located behind a Comfort Inn near the corner of N. Stephenson (US-2) and Spring St., the remnants of the furnace are still impressive and are accompanied by a Michigan historical marker.
Inventor John T. Jones of Iron Mountain recognized the economic potential of the low-grade iron ore of the Upper Peninsula. He developed a method for processing the ore and built an experimental furnace in 1908, named for his daughter Ardis, to test his theory. The furnace, a huge metal tube lined with firebrick, was placed on an incline and charged with ore. The whole device was rotated with an electric motor, with iron suitable for mill use discharged from the lower end of the tube. The experiment was plagued with financial and mechanical problems, and by the end of World War I the Ardis was dismantled, Jones moving to other mining endeavors. Elements of the Jones method were later incorporated into successful processing operations for low-grade iron ores.
The entire Iron Mountain area is full of sites that detail its mining history – the Cornish Pump museum, Iron Mountain Iron Mine, and the Millie Hill mine (now a bat habitat) are all nearby.