Ward Charcoal Ovens

The Ward Charcoal Ovens were constructed circa 1876 to provide charcoal for the smelters at nearby Ward. The beehive-shaped ovens measure 30 feet high, with a diameter of 27 feet and walls 20 inches thick, and were constructed by unknown Italian stonemasons of tertiary volcanic and quartz latite tuff from nearby mountains. Two smaller kilns to the west were used to produce lime which was used in the mortar. After their completion, each oven could cook 35 cords of wood in just 12 days. After packing the wood into each oven and starting a fire, the entryways were sealed by large iron doors. Three rows of small vents near the base of the ovens could be opened or closed to control the amount of oxygen fueling the fire inside. Once the burn was complete, all openings were tightly sealed to cut off oxygen flow to the fire, and allowed to cool for a day. After unloading the charcoal, the inside was covered again with mortar and the process could be repeated.

After only three years, a new source of fuel for the smelters made the use of charcoal obsolete and the ovens were no longer used. Petroleum coke was cheaper and more efficient to use, and was now becoming available in the west by way of railroad. Over the years, the ovens have been used as shelter from inclement weather and as a hideout by bandits. In 1956, the Nevada State Park Commission was given a permit to protect the ovens. In 1969, the ovens were named a State Historic Monument. In 1971, they were added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1994, the Ward Charcoal Ovens were finally designated a State Park and recreational facilities were built.

I Visited the Ward Charcoal Ovens