Exploring Early American Industrial History At The Hopewell Furnace In Berks County
I was hiking on the Lake Loop Trail around Hopewell Lake in the French Creek State Park last Friday morning when I left the trail and ventured into the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. It is only a short distance from the lake. I had been here once before. I loved hiking through this scenic and historic restoration of an early American Iron Plantation.
The Hopewell Iron Furnace was established on the French Creek in 1771 by Mark Bird. The site was chosen because of the nearby vast forest of American chestnut trees. The trees were needed to produce charcoal to fuel the furnace. There was also iron ore and limestone deposits in the area.
The Hopewell Iron Furnace operated until 1883 producing ammunition and canons for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and later producing iron tools and implements for the growing Nation. It was famous for producing cast iron stoves.
The visitor center and exhibits weren’t open until 9 a.m. but the site is open to the public and I was able to walk through the mostly wooded 848 acre site. I enjoyed the tranquil trail and scenery. However this quiet and peaceful scene would not occur while the iron furnace was in operation. There would be smoke and noise from the forge and charcoal pits. There would also be many wagons bringing the iron ore, wood for the charcoal, and limestone into the plantation and more wagons transporting the finished products to the markets .
The Hopewell Deep Woods trail begins along the roadway and I followed in a short distance into the second growth forest. While the Hopewell Furnace was in operation large sections of the forest were cut to produce charcoal that fueled the furnace. Trees in these areas were allowed to regrow for 25 years and again cut for fuel. The regrown forest is now the largest contiguous forest remaining in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
As I was about to leave the Hopewell Furnace Plantation I realized it was now past 9. a.m. I decided to stop in the visitor center. I had a nice chat with the rangers, about Hopewell Furnace and where to eat breakfast. They convinced me to watch the 15 minute video on the history of Hopewell Furnace. I am so glad I did It was very informative and I learned so much about the history of the iron industry in Colonial America and about the living conditions of the owners and workers on the plantation.
The rangers were now conducting tours of the plantation. I wish I had more time to explore this wonderful place, but I was getting hungry and I still had 2 miles to go to finish my hike. I hope to return again soon . Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike in the Hopewell Furnace. French Creek State Park Hopewell Furnace August 12 2022