Suggested Start: Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site Visitor's Center
Allow: 7 hours to tour; two days to explore
Iron & Steel Sites: Joanna Furnace, Poole Forge, Pottsgrove Manor, River of Revolutions Interpretive Center, Pine Forge, and Colebrookdale Railroad
Recreation: French Creek State Park, Welkenweir, Warwick County Park, Crow's Nest Preserve, and Riverfront Park Trailhead
Heritage Stops to Shop & Eat: Elverson, Morgantown, Coventryville, Historic Pottstown, and Birdsboro
Both literally and figuratively the ironmasters of this region supported their emerging nation by forging freedom. Early Ironmasters resented British laws that required them to ship pig iron to England and then buy back the finished product. When war came to North America in 1775, the iron industry forged freedom by supplying munitions to Washington's beleaguered army. The Forging Freedom tour explores this theme beginning at Hopewell Furnace, which provided war materials for the American Revolution and the Civil War, and experienced every social and political event of the 19th century. Joanna Furnace, Pine Forge and Poole Forge supplied the needs of a growing nation by producing iron products utilizing Pennsylvania's magnificent natural resources. Pottsgrove Manor, a 1750's ironmaster mansion, exemplifies the wealth accumulated by entrepreneurs involved with the early Pennsylvania iron industry.
1000's of acres of land are available for swimming, hiking, fishing and more at French Creek State Park and the beautiful grounds of the 197 acre Welkinweir estate, a conservation trust with an arboretum, gardens and the historic mansion house. Warwick County Park offers an additional 538 acres of recreational opportunities, including the .83 mile Iron Heritage Loop Trail guiding visitors through the annual cycle of charcoal making. The park is a trailhead for the 140 mile Horse-Shoe Trail. River Front Park is home to the headquarters of the Schuylkill River National Heritage Area and one of the main Schuylkill River trailheads.
Heritage Stops to Shop and Eat
Morgantown was originally settled around 1765 and historic Elverson Borough traces its development from its 18th century origins. The tour travels to the charming village of Coventryville with structures dating from the early 18th and 19th centuries, including workers housing, an Inn and the ironmaster's house (Coventry Hall.) St. Peter's Village was once an important granite quarry site and now a restored village featuring unique shops, a fabulous bakery and the Inn at St. Peter's. Additional heritage sites are Pottstown, a community with an extensive history in the iron and steel industries, and Birdsboro, once the home of the Birdsboro Steel Company and a site where visitors can still find echoes of the industrial past as they explore this historic community.
Brown Tour: Forging Freedom
(1) Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
Grounds and restrooms open daily 9 AM - 5 PM (closed some federal holidays)
Visitor Center and Historic Buildings open Wed - Sun 9 AM to 5 PM
No entrance fee
2 Mark Bird Lane, Elverson, PA 19520
This rural iron furnace experienced every social and political event of the 19th century and contributed to the quest for equal opportunity for African-Americans and women.
From providing war materials to the American Revolution and the Civil War to transforming women's lives, the furnace products impacted life in the United States and beyond.
Tour the historic village using the Voices of Hopewell to meet the original residents. Living History interpreters on site during the summer. Great recreation stop for all seasons.
(3) Joanna Furnace
Furnace Operation Days are the 3rd Saturday of every month
Site manager on-site daily from 9-3 and visitors are welcome
Guided tours available by appointment
$4 Adults, $2 Students
1250 Furnace Road, Geigertown, PA, 19523
Visit Joanna's new Cast House and visualize the smoke, dust, and motion of an iron furnace in operation. On this site from 1791 until 1898 workers produced pig iron and iron products utilizing Pennsylvania's magnificent natural resources. In peacetime and during wartime, the furnace sought to supply the needs of a growing nation.
Today the site welcomes visitors to tour the original buildings or participate in a rich schedule of special events.
(4a) Poole Forge
Grounds open every day sunrise to sunset.
1940 Main Street, Narvon, PA 17555
The 18th century Iron Master's mansion, paymaster's house, tenant houses, and 19th century covered bridge evoke the memory of the once active and thriving iron plantation that existed here along the Conestoga Creek.
Iron Master's Mansion is open on special occasions, picnic facilities and ball fields available.
(9a) Pottsgrove Manor
Tue-Sat 10-4, Sun 1-4
$2 suggested donation
Guided tours last about 45 minutes
100 West King Street, Pottstown, PA 19464
Pottsgrove Manor, constructed in the early 1750's, illustrates the wealth accumulated by entrepreneurs involved with the early Pennsylvania iron industry. Owner John Potts became the foremost ironmaster in Pennsylvania. At various times John Potts owned or invested in Colebrookdale Furnace, Pine Forge, Warwick Furnace, and Mount Joy Forge (Valley Forge).
The Georgian mansion illustrates the privileged lives of the wealthy in colonial and early federal Pennsylvania.
(9c) Colebrookdale Railroad
(11) Pine Forge
P.O. Box 303, Pine Forge, PA 19548
(2) French Creek State Park
843 Park Road, Douglassville, PA 19518
www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks (search: frenchcreek)
Containing thousands of acres of land originally belonging to the ironmasters at Hopewell Furnace, French Creek today offers camping, hiking, fishing, and swimming.
(5a) Crow's Nest Preserve
Open Sunrise to Sunset Daily
201 Piersol Road, Elverson, PA 19520
Crow's Nest Preserve is composed of four 19th century farms assembled into one farm in the 1960s. The first parcels of the preserve were donated to Natural Lands Trust in 1991. The Trust manages the land for native habitat as well as for agricultural and passive public use.
Visiting these farm sites highlights the fact that in the 18th and 19th centuries, the iron industry and rural agriculture existed, mostly harmoniously, side by side.
The preserve includes over 7 miles of unpaved trails ranging from moderate to difficult; and a connection to the Horseshoe Trail.
(7) Warwick County Park
Pavilions available for rental
Open 8am to Sunset Daily
191 County Park Road, Pottstown, PA 19465
Warwick County Park offers 538 acres of recreational and nature study opportunities for visitors of all ages. Its significant history as a source of charcoal for the neighboring iron furnaces should not be overlooked. The .83 miles Iron Heritage Loop Trail guides visitors to an understanding of the annual cycle of charcoal making.
(7a) Horseshoe Trail at Warwick
This 140 mile long trail connects Valley Forge National Historical Park to the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Equestrians and hikers are encouraged to use the trail. 32.4 miles of the trail run through Chester County including a portion in Warwick County Park and areas near Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and French Creek State Park. The entire trail runs through historic iron country.
Maps are available on the website.
(9b) Riverfront Park Trailhead
College Drive, Pottstown, PA
Home to the River of Revolutions Interpretive Center, the Riverfront Park is one of the key sites to access the Schuylkill River Trail and learn about the history of the Schuylkill River.
Heritage Stops to Shop and Eat
Heritage Stop at the intersection of Routes 23 and 10
www.livingplaces.com (search: Morgantown)
Morgantown was named after Colonel Jacob Morgan, who laid out the town around 1770. His father, Thomas, had been a native of Wales, a captain in the French and Indian War, and owner of a large tract of choice land in Caernarvon Township.
Jacob Morgan, a Philadelphia merchant, settled in this area around 1765, building a large stone house, which still stands on Hartz Road between Mineview Drive and Shiloh Road. It is rumored to have housed George Washington during a brief overnight visit. The house has been restored by its owners.
Since the arrival of the Turnpike in 1950, the town has changed from a quiet, mostly agrarian village, to a busy commercial and industrial center. Visitors can also follow 23 West for an interesting side trip to Poole Forge.
Heritage Stop at the intersection of Routes 23 and 82
www.livingplaces.com (search: Elverson)
Elverson's earliest settlers arrived in the late 18th century and were attracted by the nearby iron mines, which supplied iron ore to the area's many furnace. It remained largely rural until the arrival of the Wilmington and Northern Railroad in 1870. By 1883, the town's population had more than doubled. In 1899, the settlement was named after James Elverson, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Elverson's building styles follow the periods of its commercial growth, and range from early 19th century stone or log buildings to post-railroad structures and 20th century craftsman and Foursquare style houses. Commercial and residential development since the 1950s has occurred largely on the outskirts of the borough's historic center, which fcontains shops and a variety of eating places. For an additional recreational side trip, visit Crow's Nest Preserve.
Heritage Stop at the intersection of Route 23 and Coventryville Road
www.livingplaces.com (search: Coventryville)
Located at the junction of the north and south branches of French Creek, Coventry was the first forge in Chester County and enjoyed the areas rich deposits of iron and limestone. Iron making continued at the site through the 19th century.
The village today consists of structures dating from the early 18th century through the middle of the 19th including workers' housing, the Inn, the ironmaster's house (Coventry Hall) and the mid 19th century Methodist church. The Coventryville Historic District remains an intact concentration of original 18th and 19th century structures. The community was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. From Conventryville, visitors have the chance to take a fun side trip to the charming historical village of Pughtown, located at Route 100 and Pughtown Road where the beautiful estate of Welkinweir is located nearby on Prizer Road.
1368 Prizer Road, Pughtown, PA 19465
Grounds open 9-5 daily, tour of the Estate House available with prior arrangements.
Members free, non-members make a donation
Welkinweir was originally the home of Everett and Grace Rodebaugh, founders of the Green Valley Association. The 197 acre estate was placed by the Rodebaughs into a conservation trust and today includes an arboretum, gardens, wetlands and the mansion house. The oldest part of the mansion house was ironmaster Edwin Morris's estate where he ran a tilt hammer for a nail factory. The Green Valley Association reflects the awareness of earlier ironmasters who also understood the importance of conserving natural resources.
(8) St. Peter's Village
Heritage Stop at St. Peter's Road off Route 23
www.livingplaces.com (search: St. Peters)
This charming industrial village grew up around the falls of French Creek beginning in 1845. Proximity to the French Creek iron mines brought prosperity and the creation of a rural village to support the mining and shipping of iron ore. The village was an important quarry site and visitors can still explore the dramatic black granite outcroppings. Today the village features interesting and unique shops, a fabulous bakery, and the Inn at St. Peters offering fine dining and lodging.
(9) Historic Pottstown
Heritage Stop at the intersection of Hanover and High Streets
www.livingplaces.com (search: Pottstown)
Tour begins on 130 College Drive at the Schulkyll River Heritage Center. Pottstown was laid out in 1752-53 and named in honor of its founder, John Potts. In the past, its iron and steel interests were very extensive. There were large rolling mills, furnaces, nail works, textile mills, bridge works, agricultural-implement works, boiler and machine shops, foundries, and manufactories of bricks, silks, shirts, hosiery, etc. You can still see the remnants from Industrial Blvd.
Heritage Stop at the intersection of Routes 345 and 724
www.livingplaces.com (search: Birdsboro)
Birdsboro was named for ironmaker William Bird, who established a forge on Hay Creek about 1740. His son, Marcus, founded Hopewell Furnace in 1771. Edward and George Brooke, later owners of Hopewell Furnace, established the Birdsboro Iron Foundry Company (1867), which became Birdsboro Steel Company (1905). The principal employer in the borough, the steel plant closed in 1988, following a lengthy strike. Find echoes of the industrial past, as you explore this historical borough.