Begin Main Content Area

History of French Creek State Park

The forest covering the park has changed since Hopewell Furnace began operation, producing iron for a young America from 1771 to 1883. The furnace required tremendous amounts of charcoal to fuel the large blast furnace.

Woodcutters chopped wood from the forest and colliers burned it in “hearths” throughout the wooded hills surrounding the furnace to produce charcoal. To sustain the furnace operations, the entire area now contained in French Creek State Park was timbered repeatedly to make charcoal. The original forest of predominately American chestnut was cleared and eventually mixed oak forests developed after the furnace closed in 1883.

It is hard to imagine that the thickly wooded hillsides enjoyed by today’s visitors were once barren and treeless. The forest of French Creek State Park played a vital role in America’s industrial infancy.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the federal government purchased much of the land used for charcoal production as part of a national project to reclaim marginal lands by making them recreation demonstration areas. The area were located "in close proximity to the larger industrial centers for use by people of the lower income group and underprivileged children, for family camps, children-group camps, and organizaion camps."

United States Civilian Conservation Corps Logo  

Two Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were built at French Creek and operated until the early 1940s. The camps built two dams, two group camps, several tent camping areas, beaches, roads, picnic areas, and started the restoration process for the historic core of Hopewell Furnace.

In 1946, most of the property and recreation facilities were transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, creating French Creek State Park. The historic core of the furnace operations and some of the surrounding fields and woodlands were retained and are administered by the National Park Service as Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Located adjacent to the park, the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site features a cold-blast furnace restored to its 1830s appearance. Hopewell Furnace serves as an example of an early American ironmaking community.

The iron produced was used to make many items including arms used by American patriots during the Revolutionary War period.

During summer months, costumed historical interpreters demonstrate, describe and tell the story of Hopewell’s iron-making years (1771-1883). Hopewell Furnace is open to the public daily, from 9:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M., throughout the year, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

There is an admission fee.

For more information, contact:

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
2 Mark Bird Lane
Elverson, PA 19520