Hopewell's Historic Apples One of the earliest mentions of an apple orchard at Hopewell Furnace dates back to an April 2, 1788 estate advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, which mentions "an excellent young bearing orchard of about 250 apple trees of the best fruit". From the limited evidence available, Hopewell's apple orchard appears to have been typical of the period. Almost all farms had an orchard of several acres to supply the owner's needs. In the early 1800s apples were used at home for cider, apple butter, and dried apples. They were also used as feed for livestock. The commercial use of apple orchards did not begin until the mid-1800s when improved transportation allowed farmers to ship fresh fruit to the growing cities of New York and Philadelphia.
Orchard spraying did not become common in Pennsylvania until after 1889. Until that time pest control was limited and losses were high. The National Park Service recognizes the potentially harmful effects of pesticides and strives to reduce or eliminate their use. Hopewell Furnace attempts to control pest and disease damage in the orchard by pruning to allow more rapid drying of trees, timing spraying with the weather and tolerating more fruit damage than a commercial orchard would. A small percentage of apples will show insect damage. Also, most of the apples will have tiny black spots and soot-colored blotches caused by a harmless fungus that affects only the appearance of the apple.
Cultural practices in orchards have changed greatly over time. In many orchards livestock was allowed to graze among the trees. Hopewell Furnace records of 1858 indicate that potatoes, oats, and corn were planted in the orchard. Although there are several references in furnace records to paying for pruning apple trees, this may have been an infrequent practice rather than the annual chore it is today. Older orchards characteristically had large trees. Modern trees are intentionally dwarfed so that they are easier to manage.
Taking a Bite Out of History Hopewell's apples are managed to preserve the historic nature of the orchard in the style of a mid-19th century fruit orchard. Approximately 50 trees were planted in 1942, shortly after the establishment of Hopewell Furnace as a National Historic Site. Another 150 trees were planted in 1960. Today, more than 25 familiar and historic varieties are available so that park visitors can literally have their history and eat it too!