West Point Foundry Preserve, Phase 1
Landscape Performance Benefits
- Protects 32.5% of existing land within the area of work, while preserving 75% of the entire Phase 1 portion of the site.
- Manages 90% of average annual rainfall on the area of work.
- Preserves critical habitat for the Tiger Spiketail Dragonfly, a species of critical concern, by protecting 43.8% of existing habitat.
- Recycled or diverted approximately 40 tons of demolition material on-site, saving an estimated $9,000 in transport costs.
- Preserves the cultural heritage of the site by restoring 15 abandoned structures and important sites, and refurbishing 5 industrial relics.
- Provides educational opportunities for 560 students in 2017 through educational programs in collaboration with the adjacent Putnam Museum. The educational mobile app has been used by 9000 people since it was launched in 2013.
- Provides scenic views that are ecologically and culturally significant for the visitors as demonstrated by tagged 1,789 posts on various social media platforms.
At a Glance
Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects
Former Land Use
80 Kemble Avenue
Cold Spring, New York 10516
Located on the Hudson River, West Point Foundry Preserve encompasses 87 acres of forested land and the abandoned site of a Civil War artillery foundry and ironworks on a tidal marsh in Cold Spring, New York. The site was heavily used during the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing some of the first steamships, locomotives, and cannons that helped to win the Civil War. It was then abandoned and reverted to a woodland. The Scenic Hudson Land Trust obtained the site in 1996 in order to prevent development. After an intensive collaboration with university-affiliated archaeologists, the decision was made in 2006 to create a preserve that celebrates the site’s industrial and ecological legacy, both water-dependent, while allowing public access to the heart of the site for the first time. The design for the SITES-certified preserve uses historic paths and rail lines to connect visitors to its ruined industrial complexes and other buildings, revealing the site’s archaeological history while supporting its ecological renewal.
- Sculptural reinterpretations of historic artillery and ironworks features of the site highlight industrial heritage and are strategically located to help users navigate the preserve. These landmarks are in areas where archaeological exploration has been completed, avoiding the disruption of sensitive subsurface areas that have not yet been investigated.
- Interpretive sculptures highlight the foundry’s historically unique and significant elements such as the Gun Platform, Boring Mill Water Wheel and Stair, Rail Spur Turntable, and the overlook decks at Foundry Brook and Battery Pond. These interpretive elements were developed in collaboration with exhibit designers through a series of iterative site mock-ups to achieve sensitivity to scale and select appropriate materials.
- The 33-ft-high interpretive Gun Platform, constructed of Forest Stewardship Council-certified Douglas fir and supported by a reclaimed black locust on-grade deck, highlights the Hudson River’s ecological history through illustrative laser-cut recycled steel plaques. Its placement marks the approximate location of the siting tower used to test the foundry’s artillery. By the Civil War’s end, West Point Foundry had manufactured more than 2,500 cannons.
- The interpretive Boring Mill water wheel is 36 ft in diameter and depicts the hydropower used to bore the rifled interior of the guns previously fabricated on foundry site. The Boring Mill Stair allows for an eye-level view of the water wheel and restored wheel pit.
- The interpretive Rail Spur Turntable stands at its original location at the north end of the Central Spine Pathway and is made of black locust with stainless steel insets. The location of the original turntable had been previously undocumented but was uncovered during archaeological excavations in the construction process.
- Trailhead kiosks and wayfinding signage lead visitors through the site, while numbered placards are discreetly located where historic remnants have been uncovered, signaling to visitors that they can learn more by accessing the custom-designed Foundry Tour educational app. The interactive, GPS-enabled mobile app provides virtual tours of the site including oral histories, historical images with captions, and seasonal information about flora and fauna.
- The alignment of former rail lines were used to determine the circulation through the site, which helps users associate the pathways with the industrial past of the site.
- A recycled aluminum grate path forms the Central Spine Pathway and is elevated slightly above finished grade so as to not disturb unexcavated archaeological features below, providing visitors with an accessible route through the site. This pathway connects to the half-mile accessible coastal path, which provides open views of Foundry Cove Marsh at the edge of the Hudson River, a haven for waterfowl and migratory birds.
- A former junkyard was converted into a 32-space pervious parking lot with 2,280 sf of bioswales in the parking area to collect stormwater runoff, which reduces pollutants entering the Hudson River Estuary.
- The planting palette for the site uses 100% native species, including American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), pin oak (Quercus palustris), red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and Virginia wildrye (Elymus virginicus).
- While almost all invasive species were removed, an invasive black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) grove was left in place. Since the preserve is within the floodplain, clearing the black locusts would likely have altered local hydrology, so the grove was maintained.
- 100% of the natural materials from site clearing were retained and reused, including soil, mineral and rock waste, and plant materials disturbed or excavated during the construction and archaeological excavation process. This includes 14 cu yds of historic bricks reused as gabion fill in wayfinding signage.
- The preserve may be accessed via public transportation, providing connections with the community, neighborhood, and region. Site trails connect directly to the Metro North rail line (with regional service to New York City) via an ADA-accessible path. Additionally, the entry areas for the site include pedestrian paths that connect to Cold Spring’s Main Street in a new bus drop off, and the parking lot in less than a 10-minute walk.
- As pilot site for the Sustainable SITES program, the project received an innovation credit because the client, Scenic Hudson, made a decision to ban the use of herbicides of all varieties in all of its parks.
- Create public access into the heart of the site while preserving, revealing, and interpreting the site’s industrial heritage.
- Maintain the historical and archaeological integrity of the site by limiting design interventions to areas where the archaeological sites are the most concentrated and using a light touch in order to avoid any negative impacts as archaeological remnants are unearthed.
- Educate the public about ongoing ecological processes in the Hudson River Valley by preserving natural processes and systems that have regenerated on-site as it recovers from former industrial use, which had introduced flooding, promoted the spread of invasive species, and caused erosion.
- Create a precedent for sustainability and management practices for sites with industrial as well as ecological heritage, specifically those listed on the National Historic Register.
- Embrace ecological succession, knowing that natural processes will continue to alter plant communities and alter the water’s edge over time.
The local zoning code stated that the toilets at WPFP were required to be flushing toilets that either tied into the village’s sewer system or connected to their own septic system. However, Scenic Hudson wanted to install a more environmentally responsible system that would prevent the potential leaching of contaminants into the surrounding tidal marsh. The option to install a raised septic system for the toilets was compared to the use of composting toilets. The installation of the traditional septic system on the 87-acre West Point Foundry Preserve site would have cost $13,850, along with an additional $350 for annual maintenance to empty the septic tanks. The installation of composting toilets and pits on site cost a total of $85,000, along with an annual maintenance cost of $2,000. Because of the client’s desire to have the park be as low-impact and environmentally sustainable as possible, the composting toilets were selected.
- The design team proposed installing composting toilets in order to make the preserve as low-impact and environmentally sustainable as possible. Because the local zoning ordinance did not specifically allow or disallow composting toilets as an acceptable option, an unanticipated amount of time and design fees were used to educate local leadership about composting toilets, which resulted in changes to the ordinance to allow them. When establishing a design budget and schedule, it is helpful to understand if there are any elements that may not comply with local ordinances so that the additional time and financial investment can be taken into account.
- The West Point Foundry Preserve site was once covered with industrial structures. Remnants of the works lay exposed at the surface as well as below the leaf litter and soil surface. Even though many of the remnants were identified and located during archaeological investigation, many additional remnants were uncovered during construction excavation for structural footings. These remnants were reviewed by an archaeologist to establish their significance. If it was deemed significant, a solution was developed to work around the remnant. This often caused a delay in construction and required a change order. When working on an archaeologically rich site, it is important to be prepared to adjust to newly-discovered conditions, expect delays, and be flexible, sometimes by focusing on another area of the site until a solution is developed and approved.
- The master plan included the renovation and stabilization of a large 2-story brick structure that previously served as the foundry’s office building. The structure sits on the opposite bank of the foundry brook and was outside of the main scope of work for Phase 1 because of the limited construction budget, but the renovation was slated for future completion when more funding would be available. An old bridge crossing the brook was the only means of construction access to the office building, and it had been fenced off before the renovation began as it was not safe for visitors. While planning for the renovation, the landscape architect knew the bridge would need to be upgraded in the future and suggested including the bridge renovation in the Phase 1 budget to minimize future disturbance to the completed areas of the preserve. This was done, and the decision was ultimately a success, as the renovated bridge also provides a scenic overlook of the brook for visitors in addition to the access it creates for the planned office building renovations. If a project is being phased, thought should be given to include major infrastructure improvements in the initial phases to minimize disturbance and reduce costs in later phases.
- One of the design goals of the project was to make the site as accessible as possible. Concerns about accessibility were addressed through pathways created from an ADA-accessible stabilizing grid system that contains either grass or gravel. The grass system was used for the majority of the paths; however, it never really became established because what was thought to be an area of moist soils ended up being very dry during the summer months. Eventually the grass pathways were converted to gravel. It is important to thoroughly understand the feasibility of product installation, including seasonal site conditions and timeframe for grass establishment.
Plants: Braun Nursery
Grating: Ohio Gratings – Wheels and Heels Long Span Steel Plank Grating
Paving: Invisible Structures, Inc. – GravelPave2 and GrassPave2
Paving: Tilcon – 3/4-in washed, crushed Bluestone
Paving: Schofield Stone – 5-in-7-in CheekStonz Delaware Blend Riverstone
Lumber: Black Locust Lumber
Fabrication: Timberpeg – Gun platform structure
Metal Edging: Pave Tech Hardscape Outfitters – Pave Edge Industrial
Interpretive Structure Fabrication: Hatfield Metal Fabrication
Gabion Wall: Maccaferri USA
Picnic Tables: OFAB Outdoor Furnithre – 8-ft Rectangle Aluminum Diamond Plate Picnic Table
Bike Racks: Forms +Surfaces – Bay City Bike Rack
Waste Receptacles: Landscape Brands – 32 Gallon Receptacle
Composting Toilets: Clivus Multrum
Client: The Scenic Hudson Land Trust Inc.
Landscape Architect: Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, PC
Surveyor: Badey and Watson
Engineering: GHD Consulting Engineers, LLC
Preservation Architects: Li Saltzman Architects
Stabilization: Liam O’Hanlon Engineering
Interpretive Design: C&G Partners, LLC
Cost Estimating: Slocum Consulting
Role of the Landscape Architect
Over a 7-year period, the landscape architect led a team of environmental engineers, biologists, wetland scientists, exhibition designers, preservation architects, archaeologists, structural engineers, historians, and cultural resource specialists through the design process, which included rigorous research, mapping, client-inclusive design and community involvement. The landscape architect was responsible for agency approvals and construction administration.
Case Study Prepared By
Research Fellow: Lisa DuRussel, Visiting Assistant Professor, Pennsylvania State University
Research Assistant: Aastha Singh, MSLA Candidate, Pennsylvania State University
Firm Liaison: Daniel Yannaccone, Senior Associate, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects
DuRussel, Lisa, and Aastha Singh. “West Point Foundry Preserve.” The Landscape Performance Series. Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2018. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs1360