Hopewell Furnace: Early American Iron Plantation

In the woods of southeastern Pennsylvania, a community of men, women, and children worked to supply iron for the growing nation during the 18th and 19th centuries. They created a village called Hopewell that was built around an iron-making furnace.

Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is the best preserved iron plantation in North America.

Hopewell Furnace consists of a mansion (the big house), spring and smoke houses, blacksmith shop, office store, charcoal house, and a schoolhouse.

From 1771 to 1883, Hopewell Furnace manufactured iron goods to fill the demands of growing eastern cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore. While the most profitable items were stoves, the furnace cast many other objects such as kettles, machinery, grates, and cannon shot and shells for patriot forces during the Revolutionary War.

As technology progressed, the furnace eventually became outdated. In 1883, it closed, and the furnace workers and their families left to make their living elsewhere. They left behind their homes, work buildings, tools, and other evidence of the iron-making community that once thrived.

The 15-minute introductory film shown in the visitors center focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The 15-minute introductory film shown in the visitors center focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today the remains of Hopewell Furnace represent an important time in America’s maturation as a nation. The production of iron in hundreds of small furnaces like Hopewell provided the key ingredient in America’s industrial revolution, enabling the United States to become an economic and technological leader worldwide.

Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation that used slave and free labor.

The 15-minute introductory film focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour. The furnace produced 115 big guns for the Continental Navy. Other items once produced at the site included plowshares, pots, stoves, and scale weights.

Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area, 52 features on the National Register of Historic Places, and a total of 848 mostly wooded acres. The park’s museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site’s history.

Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The impressive blast furnace and 30-foot water wheel, ironmaster’s mansion, workers’ quarters, a living farm, charcoal maker’s hut (otherwise known as a collier’s hut), and other structures illustrate the historic infrastructure typical of the charcoal-iron making process.

What today’s visitors will not find are the noise, heat, and pollution that were ever-present in the community during the heyday of iron production.

Hopewell Furnace lies at the center of 848-acre French Creek State Park and consists of 14 restored structures as well as the paths, fields, and meadows of the one-time working village. The buildings include a blast furnace, the ironmaster’s mansion, and auxiliary structures.

Today, the site is an interesting visit for the hikers, backpackers, and campers who are spending time at French Creek State Park. Bird-watchers and nature photographers as well as history buffs enjoy the tours, and picnics are encouraged.

Did You Know?

Cold blast charcoal-fired iron furnaces like Hopewell Furnace were in operation in Pennsylvania as early as 1720. Between 1832 and 1840, 32 such furnaces were built in the state. The U.S. census of 1840 recorded 212 charcoal-fired furnaces operating in Pennsylvania that year.

The park's museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site's history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The park’s museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site’s history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Directions: 5 miles south of Birdsboro, PA, off of Route 345

Address: 2 Mark Bird Lane, Elverson, PA 19520

Phone: (610) 582-8773

Website: www.nps.gov/hofu

Entrance Fees: Free Admittance

Worth Pondering…

Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.

—Freya Stark

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Pennsylvania State Parks Offers Special Deal for First-Time Campers

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is again partnering with Gander Mountain to provide first-time campers with needed gear and a reservation for two nights at a participating state park for just $20.

“This is the second year we are offering this hands-on instruction on camping and we’ve added five additional parks to the original 14,” DCNR Secretary Richard Allan said in a news release.

“You can’t beat this offer as far as the cost; the opportunity to enjoy many other activities at our state parks such as hiking and fishing; and a park staffer will even help you set up camp.”

Nineteen state parks around the state are participating in the program. The parks and their locations are:

  • Black Moshannon, Centre County
  • Caledonia, Franklin County
  • Chapman, Warren County
  • Colonel Denning, Cumberland County
  • Cook Forest/Clear Creek, Clarion and Jefferson counties
  • Gifford Pinchot, York County
  • Hills Creek, Tioga County
  • Keystone, Westmoreland County
  • Lackawanna, Lackawanna County
  • Laurel Hill, Somerset County
  • Little Pine, Lycoming County
  • Locust Lake, Schuylkill County
  • Ole Bull, Potter County
  • Parker Dam, Clearfield County
  • Promised Land, Pike County
  • Pymatuning, Crawford County
  • R.B. Winter, Union County
  • Ryerson Station, Greene County
  • Sinnemahoning, Cameron and Potter counties
The 1,445-acre Lackawanna State Park is in northeastern Pennsylvania, ten miles north of Scranton. The centerpiece of the park, the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake, is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through forest. Boating, camping, fishing, biking and swimming are popular recreation activities. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The program will run from Memorial Day weekend through the summer.

The gear provided for use by Gander Mountain and DCNR is a four-person tent, rain tarp, four sleeping pads, four camp chairs, flashlight, lantern, camp stove, and four hot dog/marshmallow sticks.

The gear must be returned upon departure.

Participants will need to bring their own food, cooking utensils, and bedding. Suggested packing lists will be provided.

“Our love of nature often begins in our childhood if we have the opportunity to connect with the outdoors, so we especially encourage parents to take advantage of this affordable opportunity to create some wonderful family memories,” Allan said.

Last summer, in the program’s first year, there were 180 reservations made to participate, with more than half of those who took a survey saying they had never before visited a Pennsylvania state park.

Almost 500 people experienced camping in a state park for the first time last year.

Details

Pennsylvania State Parks

Surrounded by Elk State Forest, Sinnemahoning is on the First Fork of the Sinnemahoning Creek and has picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and deep valleys. There is an abundance of wildlife, including nesting bald eagles, elk, and many birds and butterflies. (Source: visitPAParks.com)

With 120 state parks covering about 300,000 acres, there is a state park within 25 miles of nearly every Pennsylvanian. The parks feature an array of recreational opportunities, provide a forum for multiple environmental education programs, and conserve thousands of acres of unique natural areas, among many other features.

Website: visitPAParks.com

Campground Reservations: (888) PA-PARKS

Gander Mountain

Gander Mountain, headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a retail network of stores for hunting, fishing, camping, marine, and other outdoor recreation products and services. Gander Mountain offers a wide array of sportswear for men, women, and children, camouflage and field wear, kayaks, and canoes.

Gander Mountain began as a catalog-based retailer in Wilmot, Wisconsin in 1960. Wilmot is located near Gander Mountain, the highest point in Lake County, Illinois a short distance across the state line.

In December 2007, Gander Mountain purchased boating and watersports catalog company Overton’s, based in Greenville, North Carolina.

 Website: gandermountain.com

Worth Pondering…
And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.
—Dave Barry

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Pennsylvania State Parks Generate $1 Billion in Local Economic Activity

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Richard Allan released a new analysis showing visitors to Pennsylvania’s State Parks generate more than $1 billion in economic activity in nearby communities and support almost 13,000 related jobs.

“Pennsylvanians get a great return on the investment they make in state parks. The report shows for every dollar invested, more than $12 is returned to Pennsylvania’s economy,” Allan said.

“Connecting communities to our natural resources through their state parks generates significant local economic activity and helps build sustainable local economies.”

The study, conducted by Penn State University’s Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, was based on data from 2010, when state parks hosted about 38 million visitors.

“Especially in challenging economic times, Pennsylvanians turn to their parks for affordable, healthful recreation and relaxation,” Allan said.

“Just as importantly, this analysis shows state parks also serve as economic generators in the communities that surround them, many of which are rural.”

State park visitors purchase firewood, food, boat rentals, bait, and many other items in nearby communities.

In addition, DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks has 145 private concessions that also provide goods and services to visitors.

These economic contributions were not only made by Pennsylvanians. Out-of-state visitor spending accounted for $274 million in sales in 2012. Out-of-state visitor spending contributed to 2,976 jobs, $94.6 million in labor income, and $154.5 million in value added effects.

The 1,445-acre Lackawanna State Park is in northeastern Pennsylvania, ten miles north of Scranton. The centerpiece of the park, the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake, is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through forest. Boating, camping, fishing, biking and swimming are popular recreation activities. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Comparing the income return (value added) from out-of-state visitor expenditures with reported General Fund expenditures of $52.3 million revealed a favorable return on investment for the Commonwealth. For every dollar invested in state parks, $12.41 of income (value added) is returned to Pennsylvania.

“That is new money coming directly to the commonwealth,” said Dr. Andrew Mowen, Penn State Associate Professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, who led the research.

The recent analysis is an update of an earlier Penn State study based on 2008 data that showed state parks generated about $818 million in sales and supported 10,500 jobs.

This increase can be attributed to increased visitation levels experienced in 2010, as well as multiplier adjustments and cost of living adjustments.

Including secondary effects, the total contribution of visitor spending to the state economy was $1.145 billion in sales, 12,630 jobs, 397.8 million in labor income, and $649 million in value added effects.

Restaurants/bars and gas/oil represented the largest percentage of visitor spending, followed by groceries and take-out food/drinks. The smallest percentage of visitor spending was associated with marinas and camping fees.

  • There are some great opportunities for things to do and see in state parks, including: Running whitewater
  • Seeing an old-growth forest
  • Observing the darkest skies found on the East Coast
  • Watching wildlife including eagles and elk
  • Hiking hundreds of miles of trails
  • Viewing fall foliage
  • Attending thousands of educational and recreational programs
  • Sunbathing on a Lake Erie beach
  • Climbing over rocks in a natural boulder field

Details

Pennsylvania State Parks

This map of Pennsylvania highlights twenty must-see Pennsylvania State Parks. (Source: dcnr.state.pa.us)

Pennsylvania has 120 state parks. The system’s nearly 300,000 acres saw an increase in visitors in 2010 to 38.4 million compared to 34.1 million in 2008.

For information on Pennsylvania State Parks, visit the DCNR website.

Click here to see the full report.

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Stillness Speaks

When you walk through a forest that has not been tamed and interfered with by man, you will see not only abundant life all around you, but you will also encounter fallen trees and decaying trunks, rotting leaves, and decomposing matter at every step…

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