An Unexpected Visit To Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

An Unexpected Visit To Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Hopewell Furnace (5 of 28)
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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. 

Of course,  I was curious and walked into a field surrounded by the pretty pink redbud trees. 

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.  

I also learned that this the large central structure was the were the furnace and casting house were located. . 

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.  

Walking past the barn I came to large open fields were I watched a flock of sheep cross a stream and return to the barn.

It was like going back in time. 

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. 

The lambs bleated loudly as they neared they barns. Cows in the barn we also mooing loudly. 

I watched the sheep and enjoyed the tranquility of this wonderful place before resuming my seven mile hike in French Creek State Park. 

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 

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