Historical Marker #1434 in Newport remembers Kenton Furnace's brief but important existence in Campbell County.
Kenton Furnace, built in 1869 by the Kenton Iron Company, was one of many iron producers in the Bluegrass State. Its primary function was to supply raw product to iron foundries that made pipe and structural materials. Kenton Furnace was located on Park Avenue in Newport, near the Ohio River, in order to take advantage of that artery of supply and distribution.
As iron production became essential to the American economy, large corporate iron foundries focused their operations in states such as New York and Pennsylvania, where natural resources were more prevalent. Smaller Kentucky furnaces could not compete with the output of the larger furnaces. In addition, within the state many natural resources necessary in the iron-making process had been depleted. Timber, for fuel, and iron ore deposits were not as abundant in the commonwealth after the Civil War. And, although coal was used as fuel, Kentucky coal at this time had not yet achieved the level of production it would in future generations. All of these factors led to the demise of many Kentucky furnaces, including Kenton Furnace. It operated for less than ten years, ceasing production in 1877. Kenton Furnace moved to Hocking County, Ohio, and began operations there in 1879.
During the late-eighteenth and through the nineteenth century, Kentucky was home to more than eighty iron furnaces. Kentucky's small furnaces were greatly affected by fluctuations in the national economy. When the economy was good and demand was high for iron products, things went well. When, however, panics or recessions hit, furnaces experienced difficult times. These boom and bust cycles often spelled the end for many less diversified Kentucky furnaces. The "Panic of 1873," a national depression that hit the post-Civil War railroad construction industry especially hard, likely contributed to the end of Kenton Furnace's Kentucky existence.