by Mickey Smith
A fire ripped through the home of Chris Ransom, the original foundry building, late Friday night, May 3. Ransom was not home at the time of the blaze, the fire was reported by a passer-by noticing the flames.
Morrisville Fire Department Captain Dennis DiGregorio said when the department arrived the fire had already broke through the roof. He said it appeared to have started on the backside (towards the river) in a shed. The fire was toned out at about 10:15 p.m.
DiGregorio said Elmore, Hyde Park and North Hyde Park were called to the scene to assist, and Stowe covered Morrisville’s station over night.
He said the building had many layers to it and was filled with old equipment. DiGregorio said this made the fire tough to fight, and they made the decision not to send firefighters into the building. He said the fire wasn’t totally extinguished until about 9:30 or 10 a.m. the following morning. An excavator from Grimes Inc. was called in to help knock down walls and find pockets that were still burning.
The cause of the fire has not been determined. DiGregorio said the Vermont State Police Fire Investigation Unit was on the scene until about noon on Saturday and were unable to determine the exact cause. He added it did not appear suspicious, though.
Three firefighters were treated and released, after an explosion from within the building went off. He said those three were part of the initial crew, which attacked the fire from the railroad tracks side of the building.
None of the neighboring buildings, including the Borneman (formerly Greene Corp.) building, which now houses a gym, were not damaged in the fire.
According to history compiled by Francis Favreau, construction of the foundry was first completed on February 26, 1873 and the building opened for business later that year, producing side hill and flat land plows. In September of 1886 the business changed hands again when it was purchased by F.B. Livingston, C.H. Slocum, and C.A. Peters. By 1877 business was booming, with nine men employed and hundreds of plows being produced. During the late 1880’s several new buildings were added to by the Morrisville Foundry Company to accommodate the increase in business. In 1888 the company made the first of the famous Eureka plows.
In 1893, a new wood and iron-working shop was opened by two former St. Albans residents in a building owned by the Foundry Company. In 1897, despite several years of a down economy, the trustees of the company voted to put in a fully equipped machine shop. The company also upgraded to much newer equipment at that time. Later that same year the foundry building was first lit using electricity. The next year plans began to build an office building on the site of the business, with the office being completed that same year.
In 1902 a roof fire nearly destroyed one of the buildings at the foundry but was luckily found and extinguished. A new metal roof was added in 1907 to help counteract such an occurrence from happening again.
Fire again struck in December of 1920, while the molding room had concrete on the walls and floor, it was believed sparks caught the ceiling on fire during the melting process.
The Foundry also couldn’t escape the flood of 1927. It was reported the buildings were badly flooded, but most of the machinery would soon be in good working order – “a tribute to the skill of the excellent machinists employed by that firm.”