Iron ore, limestone, and lumber to make charcoal are the essential ingredients for manufacturing pig iron. In the 1700s small iron furnaces sprung up anywhere these three were readily available. Since they were often far from towns each furnace location was a settlement in itself with an iron master's house, tenant houses, boarding house, school house, church, and company store. While Hopewell is not the earliest, largest, or most successful furnace in the eastern US it is one of the most complete and well preserved. It was in operation from 1771-1883 and played an important role in suppling canons and shot to the Continental Army and Navy during the Revolutionary War. Another interesting fact was uncovered in historic documents – both women and free blacks worked in the foundry and were paid the same wages as white men- highly unusual!
The visitor center has a short video and exhibits about iron making and the people who worked and lived in the village. Tours of the village, which has 12 stops with interpretive signs, are self guided. Living history programs and demonstrations are presented when staffing is available. During September and October visitors may pick apples in the orchard. Long apple picking poles are free to use but there’s a charge for the apples – $1.00 a pound. The money goes directly to the park rather than the national park funding pool.
The visitor center is accessible. The village is not wheelchair accessible but a ranger guided tour is available for visitors who can board a golf cart. The historic road goes steeply downhill to the village and is surfaced with large, loose stone. Most of the buildings have steps at the entrances. The iron master’s house which is sometimes opened to tour has a long flight of steps up to the porch and front door.