Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site | HISTORICAL FURNACE VILLAGE

Grounds of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Grounds of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Hopewell Furnace was founded in 1771 by Mark Bird. At the time, Pennsylvania was one of thirteen British colonies in North America. By law, colonists were only allowed to produce raw materials, and these materials were shipped to England where they were transformed into consumer goods which were then shipped back to the colonies for sale. However, by the time Bird opened his furnace, colonists had been openly producing products themselves for many years. This blatant violation of British law was one of many factors that led to the American Revolution.

Bird began producing cast iron stove plates, but once the war began, he turned his focus to cannon and shot. Hopewell Furnace produced 115 cannon for the navy along with 10″ mortar shells. While companies like Hopewell Furnace helped the colonists win the war, the aftermath was not always good for the business owners. Bird produced products for George Washington’s army on credit, and after the war he was never repaid by the new government. He ended up going bankrupt and lost the furnace in 1788. Starting in 1800 and continuing until the furnace closed for good in 1883, the business was owned by various members of the Buckley and Brooke families.

While Hopewell Furnace turned out products such as pig iron, pots, and kettles, its cooking stoves became its most famous product, and its most lucrative. Between 1825 and 1844, these stoves were sold all over the United States and in many countries in Europe. However, by 1844 when the last stove was produced, newer furnaces that used anthracite coal instead of charcoal were turning out stoves at cheaper prices, and Hopewell Furnace could no longer compete. For the last forty years of its existence, Hopewell Furnace’s main product was pig iron, which are iron bars that were shipped to refineries and factories that turned them into usable iron products.

The Hopewell Furnace property remained a summer retreat and farm for the Brooke and Buckley families (and the Clingman family by marriage) until it was sold to the United States government in 1935. This included 4,200 acres of land and all remaining buildings. The government planned to create a new park, the French Creek Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA). All work was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an organization designed to put men back to work during the Great Depression. The CCC built many of the nation’s parks, both state and national.

Realizing that the buildings of Hopewell Furnace were still in salvageable condition and that the village was a good representation of an American furnace community, the National Park Service, which managed all RDAs (there were 46 in total), decided to develop the complex separately from the rest of the RDA and create a historical park. Because there was an interest in historic villages at the time (Colonial Williamsburg opened in 1932), when the new park was authorized by the Department of the Interior on August 3, 1938, it was called Hopewell Village National Historic Site. Because Hopewell Furnace was actually an industrial complex and not an official village or town, the name was changed to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in 1985. The rest of the RDA was given to the state of Pennsylvania in 1946. This land became French Creek State Park.

Today Hopewell Furnace is open for self-exploration. A three-quarter-mile walking path leads around the site, and most buildings are open. Step out of the Visitor Center and walk around to the right side to start your tour. The park brochure has a map of the buildings and a suggested route, but you can visit them in any order you like. For information and photos of the buildings, see the following web pages here on National Park Planner.

Anthracite Coal Furnace

Bethesda Church

Blacksmith Shop

Bridge House

Cast House

Charcoal House and Cooling Shed

Collier Hut and Charcoal Hearths

Company Office and Store

Ironmaster’s House

Springhouse

Tenant Houses

Village Barn

Start of the tour of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Start of the tour of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

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Last updated on June 12, 2024
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