The Ardis Furnace, an abandoned experimental blast furnace, is located at the northeast corner of Aragon and Antoine Streets in Iron Mountain, Michigan. This historic site, accessible from US-2, was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1971 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Ardis Furnace Iron Mountain 1908

Ardis Furnace during operation.

The furnace, built in 1908 by local resident John T. Jones, was a massive metal tube, 120 feet long and 8 feet in diameter, lined with firebrick and set at a slight incline. Held in place by a series of concrete supports, the tube was rotated with an electric motor to refine iron, which was collected at the lower end. Jones developed this experimental blast furnace to test his Step Furnace Process, aiming to extract iron from low-grade ore more efficiently. He named it “Ardis Furnace” after his daughter, hoping it would produce purer pig iron with less fuel compared to traditional smelting methods.

Remarkable Success?

Initially, the Ardis Furnace was a remarkable success. Jones received multiple million-dollar offers for his patent, and additional furnaces were built in Marquette and Republic, Michigan, with the expectation that on-site refining would significantly reduce shipping costs. However, the furnace’s firebrick lining could not withstand the intense heat of the reaction. Despite consulting engineers and making improvements, the fundamental issue persisted. Jones poured his personal fortune into the project, but within two years, he had lost everything, including his house. The furnace was dismantled and sold for scrap, and the project was abandoned. Jones moved on to work as a mining consultant, and while the Ardis Furnace was unsuccessful, elements of its technology were later incorporated into successful iron extraction operations.

Ardis Furnace Ruins - By Andrew Jameson - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Ardis Furnace Ruins – Image By Andrew Jameson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Save the Furnace

In the early 1970s, there were plans to demolish the remaining structure of the Ardis Furnace. However, the local Menominee Range Historical Foundation petitioned to save it. The Hanna Mining Company purchased and presented it to the Foundation. In 1972, the Ardis Furnace was officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places, preserving its legacy.

John T. Jones

John T. Jones, born on September 14, 1847, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was the son of Welsh immigrants Thomas J. Jones and Margaret Williams. At 13, Jones began working with his father, becoming a skilled mechanic and engine operator. In 1870, he moved to Sharon, Pennsylvania, where he set up and ran the Keel Ridge Furnace for the next decade. Iron became scarcer and ore quality declined. Jones then taught himself chemistry and experimented with various techniques.

Jones married Rachel Ann Milligan in 1870, and the couple had nine children. In 1881, Jones moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to manage mines for the Kimberly Company. He eventually settled in Iron Mountain in 1883. His mining ventures made him wealthy, and he built an impressive home on a 140-acre estate by Lake Antoine. The home boasted a large greenhouse made from the Ferris wheel of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition.

Despite losing his fortune on the Ardis Furnace experiment, Jones continued to work as a mining consultant until his death. He died while visiting his sister in Pennsylvania in 1928. The remains of the Ardis Furnace stand as a testament to his innovative spirit and contributions to the iron mining industry.

Newspaper Articles

For more information about the Ardis Furnace below are 2 newspaper articles from the early 1900s.

Ardis Furnace, Iron Mountain, Michigan – Duluth News-Tribune, March 28, 1909

Makes Pig Iron from Lean Ore – National Labor Tribune, PA, December 29, 1910

The Ardis FurnaceThe Ardis Furnace Historical Marker

Industry and Invention (1875-1915) – Registered in 1971 and erected in 1972 – ID #L148

Located at 368 1555 N. Stephenson (behind Comfort Inn), Iron Mountain, Breitung Township  – Lat: 45.83800800 / Long: -88.05250100

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 by 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 close 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.

Learn more about the rich history of the Western Upper Peninsula.