Hopewell Furnace was built in 1771 in eastern Pennsylvania. It was an iron-producing blast furnace fueled by charcoal. It produced both pig iron and cast iron for a variety of goods, most notably cast iron stoves. During the Revolutionary War Hopewell made cannon and shot for the Continental Army and Navy.
Mark Bird, Hopewell’s original ironmaster, was unable to collect his debts from the war and suffered other economic losses as a result of depression and floods. In 1788 Hopewell was sold at sheriff’s sale. The new owners also could not make a profit, and in 1808 the furnace closed.
A new ironmaster in 1816, Clement Brooke, re-invigorated Hopewell, and the furnace became highly productive again through the Civil War years. However, new steel-making technologies spelled Hopewell Furnace’s doom, and it went quiet forever in 1883.
In 1935, recognizing Hopewell’s historic significance, the federal government bought 5500 acres of Hopewell land to be developed as a recreational area and, in 1938, a national historic site. Since the furnace’s last occupation, though, many structures had deteriorated. The main buildings that were still in good condition were four tenant houses, the blacksmith shop, the company store, and the ironmaster’s house. The Civilian Conservation Corps stabilized the old furnace and other buildings.
Records and photographs of the furnace have been researched, and additional restoration of the site has taken place. Today, the Hopewell Furnace is open to visitors to imagine what life in an iron-making community might have been like.