An Unexpected Visit To Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
Last Sunday I decided to explore the French Creek State Park situated on the border of Berks and Chester Counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania. I made no plans and just parked along a trail on the park entrance road. It was a warm and sunny Spring day. I was enjoying my hike on what I learned was the Boone Trail. I followed the trail and came upon scenic Hopewell Lake.
Near the lake I found a couple of trails. Having no idea where the trails will take me I followed one that was lined with pretty pink native redbud trees. I now think I was on the Lenape Trail. After walking a couple hundred yards I came to this placard welcoming me to the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
There were old ruins, a beautiful old house, barns and many other structures, Unfortunately the site was closed because of the COVID pandemic but I learned a lot about the colonial and early American iron industry roaming around the grounds and reading the informative historic placards on display.
I learned this site was chosen for the iron furnace in 1771 by Mark Bird because of surrounding vast chestnut forest. The chestnut wood was converted into charcoal used in the iron making process. Limestone and iron ore were also required and both were available in close proximity to this location. There were exhibits explaining the entire process of early iron production. I entered the historic site near the exhibits that explained and reconstructed charcoal production.
This site was also chosen because it was located on French Creek which supplied the running water needed tp run the machinery and to produce the iron. At first the iron was used to make iron stoves for the early American colonist.
During the Revolutionary war the iron furnace produced ammunition for General Washington’s troops. A few of the buildings were open and I was able to enter them. I imagined the hustle and bustle that must have occurred when the furnace was in operation.
Across from the casting house was the ironmasters mansion. It was surrounded by old large trees. I again imagined the many event that would be hosted here. Summer picnics and Christmas parties attended by many of the families responsible for the founding of out Nation. I was enjoying my unexpected visit.
Next to the ironmasters house was a large barn which I learned was part of an active colonial iron plantation. . When the historic site is open, performances of the iron production and farming methods used in colonial times are re-enacted.
I was the only one present at the historic site . It was a peaceful and pastoral scene. A flock of sheep , with the the young lambs following their mothers, crossed the fields and headed toward the barn.
It was a most welcome unexpected experience, to experience not only the beauty of this natural scene but to be learn so much about our Nation’s history. I promised myself I will return soon .Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my unexpected visit to Hopewell Furnace. Hopewell Furnace May 2 2021,
“There is nothing so American as our national parks…. The fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” Franklin D. Roosevelt