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Restore the Turning Basin in the Saugus River

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Reconstruction and Restoration of the Saugus River Turning Basin and Iron Works, Saugus, MA

Contract # 1443C45000070910

Preserving the Environment…and America’s Proud History of Innovation and Invention

The Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is home to America’s first successful iron works and North America’s first integrated foundry. Operating from 1646 to 1668, the Saugus Iron Works was an impressive technological achievement for the colonists, undertaken only twenty-five years after the landing of the Pilgrims. The iron works employed the same basic processes used today to reduce iron oxide with carbon to produce metallic iron. A foreshadowing of America’s bright future, the site served as one of our nation’s first centers for technology, innovation, and invention.

In 2007, Classic Site Solutions, Inc. was awarded the contract to undertake the reconstruction and restoration of this historic site. The project involved removal of 7,300 yards of contaminated tidal basin sediments, construction of a gravel and cobble berm, restoration of wetland areas, and demolition and reconstruction of a 17th Century historic timber dock and bulkhead wall. 

Additionally, the project presented an exciting opportunity for Classic Site Solutions to collaborate with a team of engineers, environmentalists, and archaeologists from the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A gravel and cobble berm was constructed to direct the flow of the river and preserve the spawning habitat of the rainbow smelt. Existing trees were preserved and incorporated into the construction of the berm to provide necessary shading for the spawning ground. Per the requirements of numerous permits, the project was implemented in two separate phases to assure that no “in-water” work was performed during the spawning season from February 15 to June 30.

The removal and reconstruction of the 17th century timber dock and bulkhead wall structure were completed utilizing historically accurate methods and materials, including the hand-adzed finishing of timbers, mortise and tenon joints, and the application of wooden pegs for fasteners. Six weeks of fabrication was needed before installation could begin. Due to excessive snow and cold temperatures, the fabrication was completed on-site in a heated work tent.

A temporary dam was also installed to protect the work area from tidal changes and to keep dewatering efforts inside the work area manageable. Filtering and monitoring systems were put in place to further assure that dewatering operations would have minimal impact on the river. Due to the possibility of archaeological findings, strict guidelines were followed for vertical and horizontal control of the excavation. To gain access to the work area, a temporary bridge and access road were constructed.

Upon the final completion of the excavation, a diverse collection of native wetland plantings was installed to restore the adjacent wetlands and combat the aggressive invasion of non-native phragmites.

Classic Site Solutions is extremely proud to have played a role in restoring and preserving the site’s legacy in shaping the early history of the nation. The project has created a greater aesthetic and cultural value for the park and the surrounding community while helping to preserve its ecology.