Virtual Tour

Hopewell Furnace Visitor Center.
Start your visit to Hopewell Furnace at our Visitor Center.

NPS Photo, Lange.

Take a virtual tour of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site by exploring the sites below.

Virtual Tour Introduction

Welcome to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site! Hopewell operated as an Iron Plantation from c.1771 to 1883. In that time, workers produced all kinds of products from cast iron stoves to pig iron bars. The term Iron Plantation is attributed to a business in a rural location that exclusively produces iron. In this rural setting, the resources for producing iron were readily available. Because of this rural location though, Hopewell Furnace operated as a nearly self-sustaining place of life and work. So, for example, today you’ll see buildings that you’d expect to see from an industrial site such as the Cast House and Blacksmith Shop. But you’ll also see pastures, a barn and even a store. To learn more about Hopewell Furnace explore our website, like us on Facebook and visit in person starting at the visitor center.

For more information, visit our Virtual Visitor Center.
 

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Welcome to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Hopewell operated as an Iron Plantation from c.1771 to 1883. In that time, workers produced all kinds of products from cast iron stoves to pig iron bars. The term Iron Plantation is attributed to a business in a rural location that exclusively produces iron. In this rural setting, the resources for producing iron were readily available. Because of this rural location though, Hopewell Furnace operated as a nearly self-sustaining place of life and work. So, for example, today you’ll see buildings that you’d expect to see from an industrial site such as the Cast House and Blacksmith Shop. But you’ll also see pastures, a barn and even a store. To learn more about Hopewell Furnace explore our website, like us on Facebook and visit in person starting at the visitor center.

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Duration:
43.785 seconds

Discover Hopewell Furnace's virtual tour with Ranger Koch.

 
Group of four red apples hanging from a branch in the historic apple orchard.
The earliest mention of an apple orchard at Hopewell was in a 1788 estate advertisement. Today, the orchard has over 150 trees and 25 varieties.

NPS Photo

Stop 1: Apple Orchard

Though we don’t know the exact location of the original Hopewell Furnace apple orchard, we do know that the orchard’s planting pre-dates 1788. At this time, it was common practice for colonists to plant a few fruit trees, if not a larger orchard, as soon as possible, on their land. Apples were a very important crop because of their many uses. There were some “dessert” apples that were grown to be “eaten out of hand,” but there were many more varieties that were grown for other uses. Today, Hopewell Furnace N.H.S endeavors to maintain the historic nature of the Apple Orchard. Over 25 varieties of traditional and heirloom apples are available for picking in the fall.

Apple Picking is available in the fall on a first-come, first-served basis, and length of the season is dependent on ripeness and availability.
 

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One of the earliest mentions of an apple orchard at Hopewell Furnace was an April 2, 1788 estate advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette. This advertisement mentions "an excellent young bearing orchard of about 250 apple trees of the best fruit". Today, 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. Presently, the orchard has more than 25 familiar and historic varieties.

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Duration:
44.553 seconds

Explore Hopewell's historic apple orchard with Ranger Zerby.

 
Wooden road sign giving directions and mileage to nearby Reading and Valley Forge.
Over this road, wagons carried supplies and raw materials necessary to sustain the furnace operation and furnace products were also shipped to market.

NPS Photo

Stop 2: Historic Road

Hopewell was built near the intersection of north/south Valley Forge-Reading Road built in 1757. Roads were vital to import human and natural resources needed to produce iron.
 

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Hopewell was built near the intersection of north/south Valley Forge-Reading Road built in 1757. Over this road, wagons carried supplies and raw materials necessary to sustain the furnace operation and furnace products were also shipped to market.

After 1825, wagons traveled approximately five miles north to and from Birdsboro to the Schuylkill Canal and, later, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. When these roads became impassable, furnace employees often used slag (a waste product from making iron) to repair them.

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Duration:
1 minute, 12 seconds

Discover the importance of the historic road that runs through Hopewell Furnace with Ranger Lange.

 
Wood stacked in a charcoal hearth in preparation for a burn.
Colliers lived in earthen structures in the forest near their charcoal hearths.

NPS Photo, Kutner

Stop 3: Charcoal Pit

When Hopewell Furnace was in blast, colliers made and transported charcoal from a wide area around Hopewell Furnace, often many miles away. Today, volunteers demonstrate the method of charcoal making.
 

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Throughout the surrounding hills are the remains of hundreds of charcoal hearths like this one. Colliers and their helpers tended these hearths 24 hours a day to transform wood into charcoal, an almost pure carbon fuel. The conversion of wood into charcoal, known as “coaling,” is a 7 to 14-day process that drives out the water and impurities from the wood, leaving behind charcoal. Charcoal can produce the nearly 3,000-degree Fahrenheit temperatures required to melt iron ore. Due to its much higher concentrations of moisture and impurities, wood cannot produce such temperatures. This recently established hearth, located near the furnace, is used for charcoal-making demonstrations.

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Duration:
47.664 seconds

Discover the charcoal pit with Community Volunteer Ambassador Sherry.

 
Stone shed housed charcoal, the fuel used at Hopewell Furnace.
Charcoal was the main fuel used at Hopewell Furnace to heat the furnace stack to nearly 3000°F.

NPS Photo

Stop 4: Charcoal House

Charcoal provided the heat to smelt the iron ore. Charcoal was shoveled into the furnace at a rate of 15 bushels per hour. The charcoal house could hold as much as 30,000 bushel of charcoal, enough to keep the furnace “in blast” even during winter months when charcoal was not produced.

Freshly made charcoal was brought by wagon from the hillsides around Hopewell and deposited under the “cooling shed” portion of this building. There it could cool to air temperature to protect against accidental fire before being shoved into the charcoal house for storage until use.

Charcoal kept in this shed is made on site annaully by volunteer colliers, and later used for our Cast House Demonstrations.
 

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Charcoal was unloaded in this shed and spread out on the ground before it was placed in the Charcoal House. This was done to avoid any possibility of a fire in the Charcoal House.

The Charcoal House could hold thousands of bushels of charcoal. The fuel used for Hopewell’s iron production was stored here until the filler, whose job was to load the furnace with iron ore, limestone, and charcoal, carried it in a wheelbarrow to the Tunnel Head at the top of the furnace stack.

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Duration:
34.234 seconds

Discover the Charcoal House at Hopewell Furnace with Community Volunteer Ambassador Sherry.

 
Slanted bridge house allowed for fillers to add raw materials to the top of the stone furnace stack.
The furnace was always kept full when in blast. Fillers added approximately 15 bushels of charcoal, 400 to 500 pounds of iron ore and 30 to 40 pounds of limestone every 30 minutes.

NPS Photo, Kutner

Stop 5: Bridge House

Fillers would push wheelbarrows with iron ore, limestone and charcoal to the top of the furnace stack located inside the bridge house.
 

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Fillers worked in two 12-hour shifts to cover the 24-hour-a-day operations of the blast furnace. The furnace was always kept full when it was in blast. A blast was from the time the furnace was started up until its fire was put out. The heat in the furnace was so intense that after 10-15 months, the furnace shut down when its sandstone lining started to burn through. After each blast, this lining had to be replaced. A blast might also be stopped if a furnace ran out of charcoal, ran out of water to turn the water wheel, or if the water wheel accumulated so much ice that is could not turn properly.

Hopewell’s longest blast lasted 15 months, from January 3, 1836 to April 10, 1837. The furnace normally took 48 charges a day, one charge every half hour. A charge consisted of approximately 15 bushels of charcoal, 400 to 500 pounds of iron ore and 30 to 40 pounds of limestone. The melted limestone called flux, combined with the impurities in the iron ore to make a waste product called slag.

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Duration:
1 minute, 32 seconds

Discover the Bridge House at Hopewell Furnace with Ranger McCarthy.

 
White structure with red tile roof housed the stone furnace stack.
The furnace stack was located in the Cast House, where molten iron was cast into stove plates, pots, and many other products.

NPS Photo, Kutner

Stop 6: Cast House

“The intermittent roar of the forced blast could be heard a long distance away. From the top of the furnace stack a stream of sparks was occasionally emitted as the flames rose and fell. At night the almost smokeless flames cast a lurid glare upon the sky, visible for miles around which illuminated the surrounding buildings” [Hopewell Village: The Dynamics of a Nineteenth Century Iron-Making Community by Joseph E. Walker, 139].

The Cast House contains the cold blast iron furnace known as Hopewell Furnace. When the furnace was in blast, the rumble of sand rammers and voices of dozens of workers would have been heard within this building. Above, fillers would have been seen carting wheelbarrow loads of raw materials into the bridge house. The Cast House was reconstructed to its early 19th century appearance in 1964 and 1965.

Learn more about the iron making process, jobs at Hopewell Furnace, or the iron workers.
 

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The original Cast House was built around c. 1771 when Hopewell Furnace was founded by Pennsylvanian entrepreneur, Mark Bird. The building houses a cold blast iron furnace and is often referred to as the heart of the community. The current reconstruction, completed in 1965, reflects the 19th century Cast House.

In the Cast House, molten iron was cast into stove plates, pots, and many other products. In early casting, molten iron was poured into an impression made in the sand in front of the furnace. Molders worked 12-hour shifts, each preparing molds and casting when the furnace was tapped. To prevent fires from furnace cinders, the roof was covered with handmade tiles that were grooved to channel rainwater.

Hopewell Furnace permanently closed in 1883 and the Cast House deteriorated into a state of disrepair. From 1964 to 1965, the Cast House was rebuilt at the direction of the National Park Service. Amish carpenters were hired to rebuild the structure using historic methods.

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Duration:
1 minute, 8 seconds

Discover the Cast House at Hopewell Furnace with Ranger Holzer.

 
White stone house with green shudders.
The Ironmaster’s Mansion bustled with activity from furnace workers, family members, business associates, and general laborers working on the grounds.

NPS Photo

Stop 7: Ironmaster's Mansion ("Big House")

The Ironmaster’s Mansion was the social and business center of Hopewell Furnace. It was the home to the furnace owner’s family, the central office for the furnace, a place of hospitality for guests, and a boarding house for single workers. The house has 19 rooms on 4 floors. The oldest part of the house dates from around the late 1770s to 1800. Subsequent additions throughout the 19th C. expanded the house to what you see today.

Typically Furnace Management would live and work in this house.
 

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The Ironmaster’s Mansion, also known as the Big House refers to the residence of the chief manager of the furnace company. It is a utilitarian structure that was expanded over the years to meet the needs of the Ironmaster, his family and business.

The northwest wing of the building (where the front door is located) is the earliest portion of the home in the late 1770s. The house was altered when needs changed. In 1830, for example, the Ironmaster, Clement Brooke, expanded the home to help accommodate 15 members of his household, including servants. Additions to the house would continue throughout the subsequent years including the center section of the front porch in 1867 and the ends of the porch in 1870.

The Ironmaster’s Mansion bustled with activity from furnace workers, family members, business associates, and general laborers working on the grounds. Most notably, molders and single men often ate their dinners in a portion of the basement known as the “molder’s kitchen”. All this activity was supported by several service buildings and a garden. Today, you may walk the grounds and explore some of these buildings including the spring house, smoke house and bake oven.

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Duration:
1 minute, 12 seconds

Discover the Ironmaster's Mansion at Hopewell Furnace with Ranger Zerby.

 
White stone houses served as workers houses at Hopewell Furnace.
The rural location required that Hopewell Furnace be a nearly self-sustaining place of life and work. In some cases, workers rented homes and even leased farmland from the furnace management.

NPS Photo

Stop 8: Tenant Houses and Boarding House

Hopewell Furnace was built in a rural location to be close to the natural resources needed to produce iron. Some employees worked 12 hour shifts and it was essential for them to live close by in tenant houses and other buildings. These buildings were rented out to employees by the furnace management. At its peak, furnace management owned 14 tenant houses. Today, only 4 of these structures remain: 2 tenant houses, a duplex and what is thought to be a boarding house for single men.
 

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The rural location required that Hopewell Furnace be a nearly self-sustaining place of life and work. In some cases, workers rented homes and even leased farmland from the furnace management. Rental prices were fair and comparable to places outside furnace property. At its peak, furnace management owned 14 tenant houses in the surrounding area. Today, only four houses remain-two single family homes, a duplex, and what is thought to be a boarding house for single men. They span a time range from approximately 1820 to 1870.

As the nation transitioned into an industrial giant, iron furnaces in rural settings were replaced by larger steel factories in urban centers. Today, tenant houses provide visitors with a look at a self-sustaining way of life and work that was once common at rural iron furnaces such as Hopewell Furnace.

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Duration:
1 minute, 1 second

Discover the Tenant Houses at Hopewell Furnace with Ranger Holzer.

 
Red and white barn housed animals at Hopewell Furnce.
An important part of life at Hopewell Furnace was farming and the care of animals.

NPS Photo, Kutner

Stop 9: Barn

The iron making operation at Hopewell Furnace depended upon animals to provide it with power and foodstuffs needed to maintain their business and themselves. The barn served as home for many of the animals that sustained the furnace community as well as a store house for the materials that sustained the animals.

Today, Hopewell Furnace is one of a few parks that has an active Farm Program.
 

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An important part of life at Hopewell Furnace was farming and the care of animals. Large fields were cultivated to feed Hopewell’s workers and animals. Two hundred or more acres of furnace land were farmed by tenants who were paid in wages or in a share of crops. The company also made purchases from local farmers. Hopewell Furnace land produced hay, buckwheat, rye, corn, wheat, and oats. Animals kept at Hopewell included horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, and chickens.

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Duration:
42.768 seconds

Discover the role of the Barn at Hopewell Furnace with Ranger McCarthy.

 
White stone store with red shed to the left. Sign above door reads "Buckley and Brooke Office and Store".
This building operated as an Office/Store from c.1784 to the 1880s and was a convenience for workers and their families who worked long hours in a remote location. Items sold at the store include food, personal hygiene products, tools and bulk feed for animals.

NPS Photo, Kutner

Stop 10: Office/Store

The Office/Store was established in 1784. The company clerk, working in this building, served as second in command to the ironmaster. The clerk’s ledgers accounted the orders, production, sales and transportation of products from the furnace. While employees were not required to buy at the store, prices were competitive, and the location was convenient. Dry goods, foodstuffs, tools, agricultural implements, tobacco, and salt were commonly stalked. Unlike the “company towns” of 19th century coal mining companies, Hopewell Furnace documents indicate the ironmasters did not attempt to economically oppress their employees.

Hopewell has an extensive documentary collection of Furnace Ledgers, kept by the clerk in the Office/Store.
 

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This building operated as an Office/Store from c.1784 to the 1880s and was a convenience for workers and their families who worked long hours in a remote location. Money would rarely be used here. Instead, employees were debited by the furnace company’s clerk for store purchases. Employees paid this debt by receiving credit for their work on the company’s books. That said, the furnace company did not take advantage of their employees by inflating prices. Prices were comparable to other stores in the area. Items sold at the store include food, personal hygiene products, tools and bulk feed for animals.

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Duration:
39.74 seconds

Discover the Office Store at Hopewell Furnace with Ranger Holzer.

 
Drawing of children outside a schoolhouse near Hopewell Furnace.
As early as 1807 education was provided in other structures through subscriptions from families with school age children at Hopewell Furnace.

NPS Photo

Stop 11: Schoolhouse

The schoolhouse was built in 1837. Described as a one-story building of stone with a shingle roof, the main door was located at the northeast corner. The furnace company paid the school tax for its workers, but parents bought all the school supplies needed by their children. Today, only the building's foundation remains.
 

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The Schoolhouse was built in 1837 by the furnace company, which was reimbursed by the school district. As early as 1807 education was provided in other structures through subscriptions from families with school age children. The cost of sending a child to the subscription school was based on days of attendance with a flat rate for a quarter for those who attended regularly. The students were male and female and came from different social and economic backgrounds, but only the children from more wealthier families were able to go to college.

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Duration:
38.48 seconds

Discover the Schoolhouse at Hopewell Furnace with Ranger Holzer.

 
White stone building with red tile roof served as a blacksmith shop near French Creek.
Blacksmiths were an integral part of the community and the furnace company’s success. Blacksmiths repaired machinery for the furnace and neighboring farms and mines.

NPS Photo, Dhunjisha

Stop 12: Blacksmith Shop

The skill of the blacksmith in making and repairing iron objects made him a necessary worker at Hopewell Furnace. He shaped shoes for the horses and mules that were essential for the furnace operation. He made nails, hinges, hooks, wagon parts, tools and repaired all the iron fixtures of the furnace’s machinery.
 

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The Blacksmith Shop (c.1775) is one of the oldest structures at Hopewell Furnace. If you stood here in the 18th and 19th centuries, loud industrial sounds came from many directions. Visitors would hear clanking iron, workers in the Cast House, and teamsters driving wagons with horses and oxen. Sounds like these can be all connected to the work of the blacksmith.

Blacksmiths were an integral part of the community and the furnace company’s success. Blacksmiths repaired machinery for the furnace and neighboring farms and mines. These products include axes, hoes, nails, hinges, latches, bolts, horseshoes and much more.

In order to become a blacksmith, a youth was apprenticed generally, until they turned 21 years old. Before learning more complicated tasks, the apprentice was charged with general labor such as moving heavy anvils and other tools.

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Duration:
41.341 seconds

Discover the importance of the Blacksmith and his shop at Hopewell Furnace with Ranger Holzer.

 
Exposed stone furnace stack surround by grass and trees.
Hopewell Furnace attempted to modernize with the construction of an anthracite furnace in 1853.

NPS Photo, Kutner

Stop 13: Anthracite Furnace

This hot blast anthracite furnace was built in 1853 as an attempt to modernize the iron making process. Instead of charcoal, it used anthracite coal mined in northeastern Pennsylvania as fuel. Unfortunately, Hopewell’s remote location made it too expensive to ship the needed coal, and this furnace was abandoned in 1857.

Learn how the Industrial Revolution influenced Hopewell Furnace.
 

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To attempt to modernize iron production, Hopewell’s owners built an anthracite coal furnace in 1853. Due to their increased efficiency, anthracite furnaces were out producing charcoal furnaces. The Anthracite Furnace complex included a cast house, a storage house for coal, a heating furnace and a bridge house at the furnace top. An engine house contained a steam engine and a blower to force heated air into three tubes, called tuyeres.

High shipping costs for anthracite coal, poor quality ore, and possible structural defects contributed to the furnace’s failure about 1855. The cost of hauling anthracite coal to the furnace outweighed the advantages of using coal instead of charcoal.

Hopewell lost approximately $100,000 before the Anthracite Furnace was shut down. Its machinery was moved to the village of Monocacy (near Birdsboro, Pennsylvania), where another anthracite furnace was built. This latter furnace, located between the Schuylkill Navigation Canal and the river, operated successfully for a number of years.

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Duration:
1 minute, 22 seconds

Discover the Anthracite Furnace at Hopewell Furnace with Community Volunteer Ambassador Sherry.

Last updated: November 7, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

2 Mark Bird Lane
Elverson, PA 19520

Phone:

(610) 582-8773

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