Written by NJ Historian
|The remains of the blast furnace at Allaire Village.|
After inspection of the property, Allaire purchased the 5,000 acre tract in Monmouth County, which included the Monmouth Furnace, in 1822. Allaire, born July 12, 1785 in New Rochelle, New York, had found much success early in life. He was one of the leading steam engine manufacturers of his time. Between 1804 and 1806, he cast the brass air chamber for Robert Fulton's "Clermont" and in 1819 cast the cylinder for the "Savannah," the first American steamboat to cross the Atlantic Ocean. By 1820, Allaire was producing over fifty percent of all marine engines manufactured in America. His need for raw materials, particularly iron, was increasing. The best quality pig iron was imported from Britain, but high tariffs made it impractical to use. Purchasing the Howell Furnace site was a logical choice, as it would produce pig iron (raw blocks or blocks of iron) and cast iron needed to meet demand.
|James P. Allaire (1785 - 1858)|
Interestingly, bog ore is a renewable resource when mined properly. Bog ore is produced when rain water leaches out humic and tannic acids and carbon dioxide, which is produced as a part of the natural life-cycle of microorganisms in the soil. After a period of twenty-five to thirty years, the chemical changes of the soil complete and the surface soil hardens into a sold mass. If the ore bed is left undeveloped and unpolluted, the beds can be mined indefinitely.
|An early view of Howell Works, circa 1850s.|
In 1836, Allaire's wife, Frances Duncan, died at the age of thirty-two. Allaire remarried in 1846 and upon his death in 1858, left the majority of his estate to his second wife, Calicia Allaire Tompkins. After her death, the estate transferred to their only son, Hal. Hal Allaire left the property largely unchanged and lacked the funds to fully maintain it. As the abandoned buildings gradually fell into disrepair, the site became known locally as "Deserted Village."
|The remains of the row houses, now part of the Visitor Center and Museum, July 12, 1936.|
Here is a small sampling of some of the many buildings found at Allaire Village:
The southern half of the church building at Allaire was built in 1832 as a school and expanded in 1836 to become an Episcopal Church. Like most church structures, it also functioned as a community hall and school when services were not taking place. All of the children living at Howell Works were required to attend school up until the age of twelve, as per James P. Allaire. He was a strong believer in education and financed the cost of operating it. Many visitors wonder why the bell tower is located at the rear of the building rather than the front. Simply, it was built that way in 1836 because the original 1832 section could not support the weight of it. Rather than reframe the building, it was placed unconventionally at the rear. The building was restored in the 1930s by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
|The Church at Allaire Village.|
The General Store is the tallest remaining structure at Allaire (it was once the third-largest during the site's heyday). This four-story building functioned as a retail and wholesale store, the largest in New Jersey, when it was built in 1835 at a cost of $7,000. A freight elevator was installed in the building. The store stocked local goods from the community but also brought in goods from New York City. The store's goods included meat, fish, and dairy products stored in the basement; hardware, flour, coffee, wine, liquor, groceries, ironware, and other goods on the ground floor; and a wide range of furniture on the second floor. The top floor held bulk items and was also used a storage area. The Store also contained the Howell Works Post Office and an apothecary. It has been recorded that customers came from up to forty miles away to purchase goods at the store.
Built in 1836, this large brick shed-like structure contained four forges. The on-site blacksmiths were responsible for shoeing the horses, repairing and making parts for wagons, carts, and other tools. By 1900, only three walls remained. The roof had collapsed and was replaced by a new frame during Brisbane's ownership. During restoration, all the walls were repaired and a new period roof was installed.
Mansion and Dormitory Ruins
The framed eastern end of the mansion was built before the Monmouth Furnace, circa 1790. It was expanded by James P. Allaire for his family. In 1833, a three-story brick dormitory was added for unmarried male workers. There is evidence that suggests the home may have been occupied by the manager of Howell Works for a short time. In 1962, the dormitory side of the structure was heavily damaged during a hurricane and never rebuilt. The foundation and lower portion of the walls remain in an effort to show visitors what existed. The rest of the mansion was restored and opened to the public in 1997.