Hopewell Furnace showcases an early American industrial landscape and the essential role of industrialization in the growth of the early United States. Operating from 1771-1883, Hopewell and other “iron plantations” laid the foundation for the transformation of the United States into an industrial giant.
The primary story emphasis of Hopewell is on the first half of the 19th century – the era of its greatest prosperity. The decline of Hopewell, which ended with its final blast in 1883, began in 1844 – the end of stove casting at the furnace. The inevitable end of the charcoal furnace at Hopewell, and other charcoal furnace sites, was postponed by the Civil War and the growth of railroads that created a greater demand for iron.
The era of charcoal iron plantation depends upon a combination of agriculture and industry. The voracious consumption of fuel – an acre of hardwood trees a day to keep the furnace operating – limited location of the furnace to the proximity of extensive forests. Although the forest and farm offered employment to many workers, their ultimate prosperity depended upon the economy of the furnace. The need for an expanding labor force brought about employment and, to a large degree, equality for women, children, and people of color.
Today, the park's 848 acres and historic structures illustrate the business, technology and lifestyle of our growing nation. The history of Hopewell Furnace spans these two centuries -- from its untouched natural state as a part of the great eastern American forests -- to its rebirth as a recreational and cultural history area. In between are the stories of industrial development, technology, community, craftsmanship, and natural resources that together changed America.
Evolution of the Hopewell Furnace Blast Machinery
Hopewell Big Woods
Administrative History of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site