Introduction 1 park purpose and significance 2 special mandates affecting the park 6 interpretive themes 7 park mission goals 10 park partners 10 regional context

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National Park Service

U.S. Department of the Interior

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Foundation For Planning And Management
Table of Contents













Nestled among the trees of the Schuylkill River valley straddling the boundaries of Chester and Berks County, is a landscape that tells the story of nearly 200 years of American History. During this time, Hopewell Furnace held a central place in the evolution of an ironmaking furnace to an agricultural enterprise, and then, through an economic recovery effort focused on history and recreation, to a modern heritage tourism site. Tthe reconstructed and restored buildings of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site commemorate America’s industrial heritage when Iron was King. Today, the park and its surrounding French Creek State Park host nearly one million visitors a year. In the 21st century, heritage tourism is one of America’s leading industries.

Hopewell Furnace comprises the is an excellent best example of an charcoal-fueled iron plantation, recreated during the Great Depression of the 1930s to provide visitors with an idealistic vision of America’s past. While to many the idea of an industrial complex in a rural setting seems counter intuitive, it was once a common sightte in the American landscape. Far from any city, an active, diverse and isolated community of workers and structures grew around the blast cycles of an iron furnace producing canoncannon and shot for George Washington’s the army, the ‘Hopewell stoves’ pots, sash weights and other domestic products for distant urban markets, and pig iron for other forges, furnaces and mills of the region. While nearby farmers cultivated their soils and toiled in their fields, the ironmaster and his workers exploited the forest for fuel to make the charcoal, funneled the water supply in dams and raceways for energy, mined the ore and limestone to fill the furnace, raised the food for the community, husbanded the horses, mules and oxen to transport the material, and produced implements for America’s growing industrial society.
As profitability decreased, Hopewell’s owners survived by selling timber, scrap iron and stone. New land was acquired, possibly for moving towards the development of a dairy .transformed the furnace lands into dairy farming Eventually it was used as a summer retreat from the heat and humidity of Philadelphia. The Franklin Roosevelt administration, as part of its Works Progress Administration efforts, purchased Hopewell Furnace and the surrounding 8,000 acres to create the French Creek Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA). By 1935, two Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps had been constructed providing work for unemployed young men and building picnic and camping areas, trails and roads, and other recreation facilities for the growing urban population of Philadelphia. In response to the rediscovery of the historic iron furnace and the desire for continued hunting and recreation on this property by local residents, the RDA was divided into a recreation-focused French Creek State Park and a historic preservation-focused Hopewell Village National Historic Site. Over the next three decades, the CCC and the NPS implemented the Restoration Plan for the Old Industrial Village, devised in 1936, and reconstructed missing historic buildings and rehabilitated or restored existing ones in poor condition. All but three buildings identified in the 1936 plan had been completed by the late 1960s, when NPS preservation policy began to discourage reconstruction. Since then, no additional buildings in the 1936 plan have been reconstructed and the existing reconstructed and rehabilitated resources have been preserved in their 1966 condition.
Hopewell Furnace NHS, unlike its neighboring military and historical national parks, celebrates no single extraordinary event; rather it reflects a period of time and a process that played an integral role in the everyday socioeconomic life of industrializing America. While not the earliest or longest-lasting furnace in Pennsylvania, Hopewell possesses all of the resources to illustrate the typical lifestyles and work involved in the iron industry, a key component of industrialization, during America’s transition from an agricultural to an industrial society. This furnace operated at a time before the great iron and steel monopolies transformed these locally-based industries into great national corporations.
As an example of the outdoor museum movement, and a historical park, Hopewell Furnace NHS extends beyond the reflection of its early American industry. Born out of the exigencies of the Great Depression of the 1930s, this site reflects the progressive and conservation philosophies governing the New Deal and the evolution of preservation policy in the NPS. Today it is a key component in the larger Highlands Region, a federally assisted multi-state conservation effort.


The park’s purpose and significance statements, which are based on the executive order and subsequent enabling legislation, form key elements of the foundation of the general management plan. Park purpose statements convey the reasons for which the park was set aside as a unit of the national park system. They are grounded in a thorough analysis of park legislation, administrative actions and legislative history, and provide fundamental criteria against which the appropriateness of general management plan recommendations, operational decisions, and actions are tested. Park significance statements express why, within a national, regional, and system wide context, the park’s resources and values are important enough to warrant national park designation. They describe why an area is important within a global, national, regional, and system wide context, are directly linked to the purpose of the park, are substantiated by data or consensus, and reflect the most current scientific or scholarly inquiry and cultural perceptions, which may have changed since the park’s establishment.


Hopewell Furnace NHS preserves the charcoal-fueled furnace, ironmaster’s house and other resources that define the natural and cultural landscapes known as Hopewell, interprets and shares the history of Hopewell and its people, and provides for the public enjoyment through a range of learning and recreational opportunities


Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is significant for its association with more than100 years of ironmaking and its subsequent association with the preservation and development of the historic village and other recreation facilities by the CCC and the NPS. The period of significance for the iron era reflects the entire period of production from its beginnings in 1770 to the last blast in 1883. A second period of significance extends from 1934 to 1965, including the conceptualization of Hopewell Furnace as a historic park and its implementation as described in the Restoration Plan for the Old Industrial Village (1936). The following statements describe the significance of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.

Hopewell Furnace NHS is representative of iron production from the late18th to the late 19th centuries in America, including iron making processes and technologies, forest management practices for industrial production, and the related economic, social, agricultural and transportation facets of this rural American industry.
The production of iron and steel was one of the engines that powered the United States rise as an industrial nation and emergence as a world power. From its infancy in Virginia and New Jersey and Massachusetts, the iron industry played a crucial role in the growth and form of our country.
For the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, the iron industry was located near the eastern seaboard, adjacent to existing markets. From the early 1600s to the mid 1700s, iron was produced in bloomery forges and cold-blast furnaces and, until the 1850s, depended on charcoal for fuel. These small-scale, scattered bloomeries and furnaces were located in rural areas near iron ore deposits with adequate forested land to produce the needed charcoal. By the time of the American Revolution, iron was produced in all 13 colonies, but the center of the North American iron industry was the Schuylkill River Valley of Pennsylvania (Robinson and Associates, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site Historic Resource Study, 2004).
Coke, made from anthracite bituminous coal, began to replace charcoal as a fuel source in the 1840s, allowing the development of larger, centralized manufacturing plants. The initiation of coke smelting, hot blast technology and growth of the canal and railroad systems moved the industry out of southeastern Pennsylvania towards the large Appalachian bituminous coal fields. In the late nineteenth century as the Lake Superior iron ore fields expanded production and the new Bessemer furnace technology was developed, iron and steel centers grew up along rail and water routes around the Great Lakes basin and along the Ohio River. By the start of the twentieth century, Birmingham, Alabama was the only major iron and steel center outside this northern Manufacturing Belt.
Iron was smelted at Hopewell Furnace from the 17870s to the 1880s. The Hopewell site was chosen because two streams could be diverted to power the furnace, nearby mines could provide iron ore and limestone, a hill of adequate size was easily accessible to streams and road into which the furnace could be built, and more than 8,000 acres of woods and farmland surrounded the site to provide fuel for the furnace, food for the workers and draft animals to move the products.
Hopewell represents the height of this type of small scale, rural industrial enterprise. While an anthracite furnace was tried at Hopewellbuilt, for more than 95%much of its productive life Hopewell utilized a cold-blast charcoal fueled furnace to smelt iron. Over the 100 years of its operation, the Hopewell ironmaking enterprise changed ownership several times, experimented with new production technologies and processes, utilized slave, indentured servant and wage labor, and adapted their product line to changing regional and national economic trends.
The status, type and number of workers varied as the operation changed over 100 years. Tradition holds that in the late 18th century, Mark Bird, the largest slave owner in what is today Berks and Chester Countiesthe County, used enslaved workers to build the East headrace and a number of the original buildings. Some of these workers and a number of runaway slaves, formed the Six Penny Creek community, a mile from the furnace. While the furnace was out of blast, few workers were paid by the furnace, but between 1818 and 1820, 170 workers were employed and by 1835, 246 worked at the Furnace. There were more than 30 different jobs for which workers were paid - furnace workers, colliers, woodcutters, miners, farmers and teamsters all supported the operation – and they included enslaved workers, indentured servants and wage earners and single men, families and children (Robinson and Associates. 2004).
Hopewell Furnace NHS is one of the most complete representations of a 19th century iron plantation. This unique site includes many of the structures and landscapes associated with the furnace operation, housing for owners, managers and workers, agricultural production, charcoal manufacturing, and the road system. The park lies at the center of a larger protected area, historically related to ironmaking at Hopewell, whose 19th century agricultural character has not been overwhelmed by modern intrusions.
Most of the public and private historic ironmaking sites either represent only a portion of the historic rural industrial enterprise or the historic experience is divided by roads or other modern intrusions. Hopewell Furnace NHS represents charcoal ironmaking resources including those relating to financing and business, production and manufacturing, charcoal and food production, animal husbandry, transportation, housing, education and spirituality. The park has a particularly wide range of housing resource types including owners and managers and skilled tradesmen or unskilled workers, transient single men and families, and furnace workers, colliers and farmers.
The park has a much protected rural setting. Two-thirds of Hopewell Furnace NHS is surrounded by French Creek State Park. The majority of a visitor’s experience in Hopewell is buffered from modern development limiting the intrusion of noise, motion and non-agricultural views. This broader landscape seamlessly connects with Hopewell Furnace NHS and the adjoining state and land trust lands in a mosaic of fields and forests, reflecting the region’s agricultural heritage.
Hopewell Furnace NHS possesses an unusually complete documentary record of events and people who were associated with the furnace, with links to living descendants through oral histories, craft traditions and places of community importance.
There is a collection of original documents from the Biyrd, Brooke and Buckley families and their managers at the park and in archives throughout the region. The park archives contain a number of ledgers and a variety correspondence from the 19th century which document the activities and fortunes of the owners, the economic activity of the furnace and the changing level of affluence of the workers. While there is not a complete set of ledgers for the entire period of operation, scholars have indicated that the existing ones represent many different phases of the furnace operation. Preliminary research of these documents also reveals that these documents reflect changing economic status of workers over time.
There are a number of descendents of furnace owners and workers still alive and connected with the park. Decedents of the Cole family, builders of Mt. Frisby AME Church for the Six Penny Creek community, have worked for the park seasonally and are continue to assist the park with outreach and education...members of the volunteer program. Descendents of the Bird, Care, Painter, Lloyd and Brooke families also regularly visit the park. The park has also documented charcoal making, casting and other related traditions essential to ironmaking and the lives of the people who lived and worked at the furnace. In addition, the park’s archives contain documentation of individuals and descendents connected with the more recent CCC-era and early NPS activities who have shared their oral histories with the park.
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site represents a mid 20th century effort to craft and capture a romantic image of the American industrial past that celebrates an early iron making facility and community that existed during a time when the nation was largely agrarian.
The village, in its current form, never existed at any time during the operation of the furnace. After the furnace closed, Hopewell Hopewell survived by selling timber, scrap iron and stone. New land was acquired, possibly for the development of a dairy.was used as a dairy farm. Some of the buildings were removed, others rehabilitated for new uses, and some new buildings were constructed. When the federal government first acquired the land, they were interested in development for recreation and only subsequently in historic preservation and heritage tourism. However, once the historic furnace site was uncovered, interest grew to protect the remaining historic resources and bring people here to experience this facet of early American life.
The core of the historic site is the product of a plan developed during the 1930s, intended to recreate a historic ironmaking village. Their idea was “…that the old Hopewell Furnace be restored to its original condition…so that people of the present day will find in the Hopewell Furnace group a complete restoration, from which they may study and learn the manner in which iron was made in primitive American fashion.” (Appleman, Historical Report: French Creek Area. 1935). This idea was presented in the Proposed Restoration Plan for Old Iron Making Village (1936) and implemented by the CCC and the NPS between 1936 and 1965. Every historic building needed preservation, some needed more extensive rehabilitation, and some have been entirely reconstructed. The landscape features - field patterns, roads and paths, fence lines and hedgerows, gardens and orchards - have also received this rehabilitative treatment.
Hopewell Furnace NHS is a key component of the congressionally designated Highlands region, portions of which directly relate to the history of the furnace.
Stretching from northwestern Connecticut across the Lower Hudson River Valley of New York, through northern New Jersey to southeastern Pennsylvania, the Highlands Region contains nearly 3.5 million acres of forests, farms, and communities. The careful protection, management, and use of the natural resources located in this nationally significant region are essential for the long-term sustainability of both the natural and built environments that nurture all life for both current and future generations.
The Highlands Conservation Act of 2004, PL 108-421 (HCA), is important to the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania as they strive to conserve priority lands and natural resources in the Highlands region. The law authorizes the US Forest Service to provide natural resources assistance to the Highlands states, local governments, and private forest and farm landowners. The law also authorizes federal assistance for permanently protecting land when a Highlands state or a state agency acquires land or an interest in land from a willing seller.
Hopewell Furnace NHS and the broader region, calledits surrounding Hopewell Big Woods, is one feature of this multistate project. Hopewell is identified for its historic, natural resource and recreation values, for its long term protection, and for its opportunities for public access. It is surrounded by lands and communities that were historically related to its ironmaking operation and its more recent recreational activities.

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