The fascinating history of Mine Hill Preserve — a 19th century iron-making complex on the National Register of Historic Places — can best be understood through a series of self-guiding interpretive signs at the site. Installed in three groupings near the remnants of the roasting ovens and blast furnace used to process the iron ore, the signs tell the history of the rise and fall of the industrial venture. The signs weave together renderings of what Mine Hill looked like during its heyday from 1865 to 1872; a step-by-step description of how the iron was mined and processed from ore to steel; a detailed explanation of how the blast furnace worked; and a diagram of the labyrinth of tunnels that lie beneath Mine Hill.
The signs also explain how granite quarries have prospered at the site for nearly two centuries and how the light gray Roxbury stone was prized for building churches, bridges and fine homes from New York City to New Britain. In addition, the signs paint a vivid picture of Chalybes, the “boom town” at the base of Mine Hill that was once home to more than a dozen buildings, a Shepaug Valley Railroad station and hundreds of immigrant workers. Fascinating facts and “legends” pepper the signs.
In 1982, Michael Bell and Diane B. Mayerfeld, two graduate students from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, published Time and the Land: The Story of Mine Hill.
A visit to Mine Hill offers a glance into our industrial past in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty with four miles of hiking trails at the nature preserve. The blue loop trail begins at the industrial site, climbs up the Donkey Trail past a reservoir, two mine tunnels and a series of grated air shafts, which now serve as entryways to several bat hibernacula. The trail continues past massive granite cliffs, eventually descending back to the Shepaug River valley, past an abandoned quarry and back to the furnace complex.