Suggested Start: Visitor's Center and Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge National Historic Site
Allow: 4 hours to tour; 1 day to explore
★ Iron & Steel Sites: Schuylkill River Heritage Center, Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area, and Spring-Ford Area Historical Society
Heritage & Recreation: Valley Forge National Historic Park, Black Rock Sanctuary, Lock #60, Fricks Lock Village Trailhead, and Schuylkill River Trail
Historic Villages to Shop & Eat:Mount Clare, Phoenixville Historic District, Royersford and Spring City
Winning independence from Great Britain established the United states of America. Many European countries wanted the new county to fail. However, in the late 18th and 19th centuries industrial development in this region helped guarantee that the new country would thrive and remain independent. The Powering Freedom Tour follows part of the Schuylkill River Trail. The Schuylkill River Heritage Center, located in the historic Foundry Building, adjacent to a portion of the Schuylkill River Trail in Phoenixville, showcases the industrial legacy of Phoenixville and the Schuylkill River. Interactive exhibits and videos tell the story of the industries that grew up all along the river because of the transportation routes provided by the Schuylkill Canal, and later, the expansion of the railroads throughout the region.
The Valley Forge National Historic Site is also listed in the Purple Tour. Visit the 175 acres of Mill Grove, John James Audubon's first American home, and Chester County's Black Rock Sanctuary, a wildlife habitat containing wetlands, woodlands and meadows. The Schuylkill River Trail is a multi-use trail and a great way to explore the natural areas of the Schuylkill River region. Kayaks and canoes can be launched at Lock 60.
Heritage Stops to Shop and Eat
One Heritage area on this tour is Mont Clare, which is located on the Schuylkill River and hosts Lock 60. Another stop includes the historic district of Phoenixville, an important manufacturing center and site of great iron and steel mill such as the Phoenix Iron Works. Visitors today can explore its rich assortment of private residences, restaurants, businesses and historic buildings. Spring City Main Street has always been the center of activity in this historic Borough.
★ (1) Valley Forge National Historical Park
Grounds open daily, year-round 7am-dark
Visitor Center 9 AM-5 PM daily (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day)
Check for Washington's Headquarters
No entrance fee
1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, PA 19406
The peaceful fields and farmhouses that mark Valley Forge today pay homage to the soldiers of George Washington's army who, despite the predictions of the British war office, stayed together during the winter of 1777-1778 and emerged from the ordeal as a well trained and battle-ready fighting force. Before the Continental Army arrived, however, Valley Forge lived up to its name with two iron forges running along the Valley Creek. Enjoy the park on your own on foot, by bike, or automobile. Ranger-led tours and trolley tours offer other options. Whatever the means of transportation, the cell phone tour enriches the experience.
★ (2) Schuylkill River Heritage Center
Fri-Sun 11-3 and 1st Friday of every month 5:30-7:30
2 North Main Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460
The Schuylkill River Heritage Center is a gateway to both iron and steel country and the history of the Schuylkill River. Located in the Phoenixville Foundry, it provides information about the important resources that the Schuylkill River supplied to the region, and highlights the connections between the river and the growing number of industries that sprang up on its banks.
Videos, historic artifacts and murals all illuminate the industrial history of the former Phoenix Iron and Steel Company and the Schuylkill River. Visitors can also enjoy the Sculpture garden near the entrance to the foundry.
(2a) Phoenixville Historic District
Heritage Stop located at the intersection of Bridge Street (113) and Main Street in Phoenixville Borough
Phoenixville was settled in 1732 and incorporated as a borough in 1849. In its industrial heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was an important manufacturing center and the site of great iron and steel mills such as the Phoenix Iron Works. The town sits along the Schuylkill River and is bisected by French Creek, which links so many Chester County iron sites. Enjoy the regional destinations, many shops and restaurants.
(2b) Historic Society Phoenixville Area
204 Church Street, Phoenixville, PA
(2c) Lock 60
Mon-Fri 9-5 (call ahead for tours of the Locktender's House) and 3rd Sunday of every month (except June and December) 1-4
Self-guided tours of outdoor areas
Brief, guided tour of the Locktender's House available
Lock 60 on the Schuylkill Canal
400 Towpath Rd., Mont Clare, PA 19453
Visit Lock 60 to see the only operating canal structure on the Schuylkill River. The Locktender's House provides a glimpse into the past, when the River and its canals were the lifeline of the area's industries. As industry grew in the area, so too did the importance of the Schuylkill River and its canal system. The River and canals were a crucial means of transporting supplies and products to and from the furnaces, mills and factories. As transportation among the Schuylkill River became more frequent and essential to the region, new industries and towns grew along its banks. Great recreation stop for hiking, swimming and kayaking.
(2d) Black Rock Sanctuary
953 Black Rock Road, on Route 113 in Phoenixville
http://www.chesco.org/ccparks or www.livingplaces.com (search: Schuylkill Canal)
Black Rock Sanctuary is dedicated to wildlife habitat and public use. It consists of 119 acres of wetlands, woodlands and meadows. One of many desilting basins found along the Schuylkill River in Berks, Montgomery, Chester and Philadelphia Counties, Black Rock Sanctuary offers a wonderful opportunity to relax and discover the history, geology, wildlife, plant life and habitats of the basin. The sky over Black Rock is a flyway, or air highway, for birds that migrate up and down the East Coast.
(3) Schuylkill River Trail
Trailhead at Cromby and Spring City
The Schuylkill River Trail is a multi-use trail in Southeastern Pennsylvania with a projected length of almost 130 miles when totally completed. The trail is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, exercise or commute. Visit web site for specific trail information and maps.
(4) Spring City Main Street
Heritage Stop located at the intersection of Bridge and Main Streets in Spring City
This historic industrial town is situated on the Schuylkill River, directly across from the town of Royersford. With the opening of the Schuylkill Navigation Canal in 1824 the town grew dramatically in size and population. As trade and commerce continued to grow along the river, a diverse number of industries, including glass works and iron foundries, developed in both Spring City and Royersford
Main Street was the center of activity in Spring City. It was the location of most of the businesses, stores and banks. Today, the Main Street is home to a rich assortment of private residences, restaurants, businesses and historic buildings. Visitors can dine at the Spring City Hotel, originally opened in 1892, and see the building that once housed the Valley Forge Flag Factory among other unique historic sites.
(4a) Spring-Ford Area Historical Society
M, W, F 11-3 and 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month 1-3 or by appointment
Guided tour of museum and Lewin House available
526 Main Street, Royersford, PA 19468
With the growth of transportation and commerce along the Schuylkill River, new industries grew in the riverside towns. The Spring-Ford Area Historical Society examines the history of two of those communities: Spring City and Royersford. The early foundries dedicated to producing cast-iron products, such as stoves, were joined over time by glass works, knitting mills and many other businesses creating vibrant, diverse industrial communities.
(5) Fricks Lock Village Trailhead
Fricks Lock Road, Pottstown, PA
(6) Towpath Park
1675 New Schuylkill Road, Pottstown
(7) 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.
★ (7a) 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.
(7b) 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.
(7c) Colebrookdale Railroad