Monday, April 8, 2019

Investigating Early Industry at Hopewell Furnace

Investigating Early Industry at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Pennsylvania

Investigating Early Industry at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Pennsylvania

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Elverson, Pennsylvania provided our family with an afternoon learning about early industry in the United States set inside a scenic nature preserve. When we visited my family in Pennsylvania, we savored beautiful spring weather and went on an exploration of the historic site.


Artifacts and Hands-on Learning in the Visitor Center:

The best way to orient yourself for exploring Hopewell Furnace is a stop in the Visitor Center. While not huge, there are a healthy number of displays discussing the history of Hopewell Furnace during its time of operation from 1771-1883.

Iron stoves manufactures at Hopewell Furnace an early iron plantation in Elverson, Pennsylvania
Iron stoves manufactures at Hopewell Furnace.
In addition to processing iron, Hopewell Furnace produced stoves, pots, plow shares, scale weights and big guns for the Continental Navy. Inside the Visitor Center, guests view several of the stoves manufactured at the furnace.

Hands-on discovery table introducing iron production and village life at Hopewell Furnace in Pennsylvania
Hands-on discovery table introducing iron production and village life.
Another highlight of the Visitor Center is a hands-on table with a number of items related to iron production, early manufacturing and life in early rural America. With the assistance of the manual, we were able to identify each item, actually handle each item and learn how each was used. This section was very fascinating for the children in our group. Well, I learned a lot as well!

Antique sewing kit used by the furnace owner's daughter one of many fascinating artifacts at Hopewell Furnace.
Antique sewing kit used by the furnace owner's daughter.
One section of the center unfolds snippets of history of the furnace and village. We not only learned about manufacturing but also daily life. I loved the display with the old sewing box owned by the furnace owner's daughter.


I also love the protective shoes to help protect workman's shoes from fire and molten metal. A number of displays like this lay out interesting facts and artifacts.

Before leaving the Visitor Center, don't forget to grab some maps, informational pamphlets, ask questions and inquire about the Junior Ranger program if you have little ones. There also is a short video to watch as well.

Exploring an early industrial village at Hopewell Furnace in Pennsylvania
Exploring an early industrial village at Hopewell Furnace.
Touring an Early Industrial Village:

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site includes structures involved in the industrial process. as well as the ironmaster's house, workers' homes a general store, storehouse schoolhouse ruins and more. Workers and their families lived near their place of employment -- the furnace -- and thus a village developed. We were not expecting to see farm animals during our visit but actually were greeted by a herd of sheep running home much to the delight of adults and children alike.

Sheep herd coming home at Hopewell Furnace
Sheep herd coming home!
We wandered through the buildings peeking inside each and pausing to read informative placards. We learned that Hopewell had two furnaces including an anthracite furnace. The anthracite furnace below was only in operation a short time before the industry progressed past its capacity.

Remains of the anthracite furnace at Hopewell Furnace
Remains of the anthracite furnace
We were able to walk around and view the water wheel from a couple of spots. The water wheel was housed in this building along with the furnace used to make pig iron.


A peek at the furnace where pig iron was forged:

Pig iron was forged in this furnace at Hopewell Furnace
Pig iron was forged in this furnace.
A short walk from the furnace is the water wheel. The water wheel supplied the power for the air blast to heat the furnace. The 22-diameter water wheel is really an impressive piece. Our group paused for awhile to take a peek. An audio component provided a bit more info about the water wheel.

22-Diameter Water Wheel powered the air blast needed to heat the furnace at Hopewell Furnace
22-Diameter Water Wheel powered the air blast needed to heat the furnace.
After exploring the water wheel and furnace, we visited the blacksmith shop which was full of the tools of the trade.


Another favorite spot for me was the office and general store. I loved having peeks into the village life of the site.

Office and store at Hopewell Furnace
Office and store
I was actually surprised that we were able to visit the ironmaster's house. For some reason, I thought it would only be open on days when interpreters were available. However, visitors are welcome to explore the first floor of the home which is stunning and contains interesting artifacts. I am so glad that I tried the door!


Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site rewarded us with a educational and interesting family adventure while allowing us time to enjoy nature and a beautiful spring day. The entire site is beautiful and just asking for a stroll through. The site is worth a visit whether you are interested in industrial history, early American history or just to savor some time outside.

Some Facts About Hopewell Furnace:

  • During the Revolutionary War, the furnace produced iron cannons, shot and shell.
  • Iron ore came from three different area mines.
  • The builder of the furnace owned slaves. Slaves are believed to have worked on construction of Hopewell Furnace. Slaves were emancipated in Pennsylvania in 1780. African Americans continued to work at Hopewell Furnace throughout its history.
  • Hopewell Furnace and its surrounding woods were part of the Underground Railroad. Many former slaves also worked at the furnace. 
  • Women worked in a variety of capacities including selling food items, washing and mending clothing and more. A few worked in an industrial capacity or in the mines and earned the same amount as the men.

Helpful Tips:
  • Inside the Visitor Center is a gift shop. In addition to gifts, there are a few snacks available for purchase.
  • You can pick apples from the orchard in the fall, see website for more info.
  • Hopewell Furnace is surrounded by French Creek State Park. So, there are plenty of trails available.
  • Interpreters are available during warmer months. See the website for more information and details on the schedule.
**Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Investigating Early Industry at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and Early American Village Life in Elverson, Pennsylvania


1 comment: