by Julie Steele
What began as a leisurely stroll down the River Walk in Chattanooga has become a major project of UTC’S Institute of Archeology and Mark Making, a local nonprofit that aims to empower non-professional artists by teaching them 21st century problem solving skills the the goal of a more fulfilling life. President and Founder of Mark Making Frances McDonald stumbled upon the Bluff Furnace about a year and a half ago.
The giant steel, round frame reaches about 42 feet into the sky and is located just west of the Hunter Museum. Nick Honercamp, director of the Institute of Archeology at UTC explains that the Bluff Furnace began as a traditional, coal-fired furnace and shorter thereafter and was converted into a cupola-type furnace. At the same time it was modified from a square stone structure into a cylindrical boiler-plate stack.
The conversion from charcoal to coke, which led to increased purities, proved problematic and in late 1860 the furnace was abandoned. Initially iron produced from the blast furnace was sold to local foundries.
Given the history of the furnace, several years ago, the Parks Foundation decided to restore the area and piggyback onto that the restoration of the Walnut Bridge, all spearheaded by Garner Chapin, explains McDonald. Artwork added to dress up the furnace during that restoration during that time has since become damaged and eroded.
UTC student archeologist Tony Dickenson is a member of the class to create the artwork that will go on the structure and how it will be hung. The artwork itself remains undecided at this point, she said. However it is expected to include several mediums.
It’s the first time mark making will be working on an historic project and the first time working with university students.
Honercamp says he hopes the project will be complete by the end of the semester.
An blog will be kept on the continuing progress of the project go to the Mark Making Face Book page.
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