Airdrie Hill, the hill or the bluff, is situated some 500 feet above Green River,
in Muhlenberg County, and has been a bluff or a ridge at the time of, or even
before the Green River ever started flowing. As the Earth continued to evolve,
eons ago, large layers of coal, iron ore, sandstone and other rock formations were
developing in this area. With a plentiful supply of coal and rock formations just
under the ground, it would only be a matter of time before man would find use for
these natural resources. The iron ore, in the general area, may not have been of
sufficient quantities or quality to make extraction worthwhile. In the middle of
the nineteenth century, the mining of iron ore was attempted, in this area above
Green River, but without success. In the middle of the twentieth century, the
mining of coal in this area finally paid off and big time. Prior to then, coal
was being extracted, but only in small quantities. I would surmise that some coal
was extracted from this area soon after man discovered that this black gold would
burn and produce energy.
Airdrie Hill! Airdrie Iron Ore Furnace! Airdrie Foundry! Airdrie, the town! A
lot of places when noted on paper or electronic print. Only one place in the mind
of thousands that were associated with the past history of Airdrie. Just where is
Airdrie Hill? In the following series of pictures is a "Topo" map. The plus sign
on the map is the location of Rockport, KY. The semi-circled area, just south of
the plus sign, is where Airdrie Hill continues to stand. Beaver Dam is to the
top-right and Central City is to the bottom-left.
In the year of 1850, a wealthy landowner, Robert Sproul Crawford Aitcheson Alexander,
purchased several thousand acres of Muhlenberg County land that was located on the
Green River. The eventual founder of Airdrie in Muhlenberg County, was born in
Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1819. This purchased land was farming land with a very large
house that had been built on the property prior to the purchase. This would be
the home for the new owner. This wealthy Kentucky investor, of Scottish descent, had
an idea in wanting to extract iron ore from an area on the Green River and just
above Rockport. He picked a location where all of the necessary components, for a
process of making iron, was located including an abundance of coal for firing the
powerhouse and the furnace. He was also able to persuade several hundred fellow
Scotchmen to follow him to this wilderness to build an iron ore smelting plant.
A lot of these Scottish immigrants were from a place in Scotland called Airdrie and
thus, this new area of Kentucky was named after their home place. Some two years
after construction started, a powerhouse, an iron ore furnace, an equipment building,
a large rock wall with rock steps from the base of the wall to the top, and several
houses were built on this site in Muhlenberg County, some four miles above Rockport.
Problems with the smelting process and the hardheadedness of a Scotchman, unwilling
to try other methods, spelled doom for this new adventure. The furnace failed on
the first few attempts and in 1857 the foundry was shut down. The investor sold
out and moved on to Lexington where he became involved in the race horse business.
The two hundred or so Scottish workers were now without a job and an income. Most
were miners and they scattered out in Ohio, Muhlenberg and other surrounding counties.
Their work ethics enabled some of them to become successful coal miners. A lot of
the miners became natives of Rockport and McHenry.
That was then and in the mid nineteenth century. This is now and well in to the
twenty-first century. I have not been to Airdrie Hill in probably over forty years.
Weather, erosion, and time tend to take homemade structures back to the ground
and Airdrie is no different. The houses were mostly gone before the end of the
nineteenth century and by the mid-twentieth century only the wall, steps, furnace,
stone building, and coal mine entry were left. In the mid nineteenth century,
there was a large iron ore smelting plant and plenty of houses for the workers.
Before the start of the twentieth century, the spot on Green River was just a
place to picnic, to party, and to just go have a look and to gawk.
In the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth centuries, the young
people at Rockport considered Airdrie Hill their personal place to visit for a day's
outing of picnicking, swimming, frolicking and just enjoying the different type of
a playground that had been built so many years ago. Access to this famous old
"Airdrie Hill" was by way of river or overland from the small town of Paradise. The
young people of Rockport and some older ones also, preferred to access Airdrie by
way of Green River. A few miles of rowing a boat, a short scamper up the river
bank and there was Airdrie. The Muhlenberg Country young adults and other visitors
would motor to Paradise and then by means of mostly a dirt road would make their
trek to Airdrie. In most cases, they could travel by automobile for the complete
trip, but at times, it meant walking in from near Paradise. In either case, the
outing was just about an all day affair and in most cases, included a picnic by the
river. Sometimes these groups were quite large and a dozen or more couples making
an all day outing at Airdrie Hill was not uncommon. Oh yes, at one time there was
a town on the Green River called Paradise and Peabody did not haul it away. When
the large Paradise TVA power plant was built, near the town of Paradise, in the early
nineteen sixties, the pollution from the plant caused problems for the residents
of Paradise. The quick fix and least expensive for TVA was to purchase the town
of Paradise and all of the stores, houses and even a post office. Case closed and
the town of Paradise was no more.
I wonder what Airdrie looks like today. As you can see by the attached pictures,
Mother Nature is taking over over and even more so today. The following pictures,
provided by Shirley Smith, were taken thirty or so years ago, thus time may not
have been good to the manmade structures of old Airdrie. The mine entry is probably
closed, the steps may still be standing and some part of the furnace may be intact
enough where one may be able to tell where a furnace once stood. In case anyone
wants to view this Kentucky Landmark, I can help you get started. TVA Paradise
Steam Plant has a boat ramp located below the big plant. Access to this ramp is
probably day light hours only and one can get there by going to Drakesboro, KY on
Hwy. 431 and then turning at the light and going toward the Paradise Steam Plant.
I think that Drakesboro has only one traffic light. From the boat ramp, Airdrie
Hill is North and down river probably less than two miles from the ramp. Please
be advised; that two mile trek will be one that should only be taken by people and
animals that are used to walking. It will be a rough trip to say the least. Look
out for snakes, mosquitoes, chiggers, spiders, and four legged varmints. A piece
of advice here would be to go in the months of October, November, December, March
and April. The easiest way to find Airdrie is to take a boat ride from the Rockport
Boat Ramp, now called Byrd's Landing, and take a scenic boat ride to the Paradise
Boat Ramp. Now, just ease back down the river looking for any signs of a brick
structure or a rock wall high on the ridge. If the leaves are off the trees, this
would be a very simple method to visit Airdrie. Another thing to consider is the
ownership of the land. I have no idea if the land is company owned or privately
owned, thus permission may be required to traverse the land. Good Luck. You will
need the Good Luck. Take your camera and send me a few pictures. This will probably
be the only way that I will ever see Airdrie again.
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