Wednesday, 25 September 2019 / Published in News


Morgantown, PA . . .  2019 has been a banner year for restoration and preservation projects by the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association at the 228-year-old Joanna Furnace Ironworks near Morgantown. Approximately $300,000 will be invested this year to bring the charcoal furnace back to life through several restoration, preservation and research projects . . . preserving the blast furnace bosh, rebuilding the wheelwright shop and installing shutters on the office/store. In addition, a team from Kutztown University Department of Anthropology & Sociology is working on an archaeological study in the cellar of the Office/Store before installing a brick floor.

Ron Schlegel, President of the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association states, “Every project we undertake, within the historic area, follows the rigorous National Historical Standards as defined by the Federal Historic Preservation Guidelines. It’s these guidelines that define specific techniques, methods, materials and the required research. The federal standards drive how we execute projects. Following the rigorous Historic Preservation Standards will ultimately benefit the site when we work to obtain the coveted National Historic Landmark Status for the Joanna Furnace Ironworks in the future.”

Restoration of the Joanna Furnace Wheelwright Shop is set to begin. After almost 15 years of exhaustive research by Hay Creek archaeology volunteers, the original stone foundation has revealed the footprint of this historic building. This mortise and tenon frame structure was about 17 feet by 24 feet. Executive Director Mark Zerr said “It stood until the late 1940s. Mainly it was a woodworker’s shop. It was the wheelwright’s responsibility to keep the company’s wagons ‘on the road’. His job was to construct wheels, spokes, hubs and even the wagons that would haul the charcoal, iron ore and limestone to the site and ultimately transport the finished iron products to market.”

Because only one partial photo of this building exists, Hay Creek preservationists had to rely heavily on archaeology to create a complete reproduction of the structure. The archaeology team uncovered many artifacts over the years but the critical discoveries for the reconstruction were the foundation size, broken glass which indicated window placement, door size and roof material (over the years there were three roofs-two of beaver tail tile and the final of slate). The old partial photo added visual evidence to the fact it was made of board and batten construction like the blacksmith shop across the road. The photo also gave the restoration team a gable end view which enabled them to establish the exact dimensions of the building as well as the pitch of the roof.

Because of the stringent restoration standards Hay Creek subscribes to,  18th Century Restorations of Pottstown was awarded the mortise and tenon framing part of the project.  William M. Dunleavy Company of West Chester, who specializes in historic roof restoration, will be constructing the slate roof. John C.  Zerr & Sons of Geigertown will be constructing the poured concrete footer and stone mason Tim Angelo of Morgantown will be reconstructing the red sandstone foundation.

The Joanna Furnace Wheelwright shop is expected to cost approximately $115,000. The Hay Creek Valley Historical Association thanks an anonymous donor family who will be underwriting the major portion of this restoration project. This restoration donation honors the tradition of their father, grandfather and great-grandfather who were themselves, wheelwrights. This building will be completed in fall 2019.

Phase one of the Joanna Furnace bosh preservation has been completed. The Joanna blast furnace is unique among most of the remaining charcoal iron furnaces in Pennsylvania. It has one of the only ‘period’ boshes still in existence. This bosh, rebuilt before the last blast in 1898, makes Joanna Furnace an extraordinarily unique and valuable historic site.

The bosh is the firebrick lining of the lower funnel-shaped section of the blast furnace lining. This is where the temperatures were the hottest, exceeding 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of severe wear the bosh was rebuilt every nine to fourteen months for as long as the blast furnace was in operation.

The bosh project phase one was underwritten by a PHMC Keystone Historic Preservation Grant, a grant from the Berks County Community Foundation, National Historic Preservation Appell grant, along with the friends and members of the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association.  The work on this valuable artifact was performed by the International Chimney Corporation of Buffalo, New York, famous for successfully relocating the Cape Hatteras Light House.

2019 has been a banner year in the restoration and preservation of Historic Joanna Furnace. Our event guests to the furnace are encouraged to visit the restoration sites. Executive Director, Mark Zerr stated, “Each year we strive to make the Joanna Furnace Ironworks more exciting for our guests. Our events are dedicated to preserving our local history and telling the story of the 18th and 19th centuries within the Joanna Furnace community.”

Wednesday, 07 August 2019 / Published in News
Wednesday, 07 August 2019 / Published in News
Tuesday, 26 March 2019 / Published in News

Morgantown, PA. On Saturday, April 6th Civil War buffs and enthusiasts are invited to come out to Historic Joanna Furnace to learn about Civil War reenacting. On this day the PA 50th & 69th Civil War regiments will meet at historic Joanna Furnace for their annual training day. This is where participants in these Civil War groups will go over all safety aspects of the hobby including proper handling of the rifle, as well as proper rifle firing techniques. The groups will also drill their troops, so they are ready to maneuver properly while out at Civil War reenactments. In addition, all personal reenactment equipment is checked to make sure that each member is ready to take the field safely. Guests are welcome to come out to Joanna Furnace on this day to observe and to ask questions. Plus, visitors who want to get involved in Civil War reenacting are welcome to sign up to be a part of this living history group. Admission and parking are free at this event.

The event starts off at 7 am with an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast in the Joanna Furnace Mule Stable. Other light fare including hot dogs, soup and drinks will be sold throughout the day. In the evening from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Hay Creek Valley Historical Association volunteers will join in the festivities with a lantern-lit tour of the 18th & 19th century Iron Works. Visitors will be able to visit the old furnace store/office, charcoal barn, blacksmith shop, casting house and see the iron furnace itself.

The 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry an Irish Unit, also known as the 69th Penna. Irish Volunteers is mostly known for repulsing Pickett’s charge at the “Angle” at Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863. The 69th PVI fought every campaign with the Army of the Potomac from 1861-1865. Of the 1,007 men mustered in, in 1861, less the 56 still served at the surrender at Appomattox in 1865.

Today the 69th PVI is made up of individual men, women, fathers, sons, women, and families from all walks of life who are engaged in a wide variety of activities. We welcome all individuals who are interested in joining us to honor the men of the 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The 69th PVI honors the original 69th members by participating in Civil War reenactments, School presentations, Parades, Living histories programs as well as raising money for grave preservation of the unmarked graves of the original 69th PVI members.

Each year before our reenacting season starts, the 69th PVI participates in the School of Soldier. This is where we get together to refresh and to shake off the rust so to speak over the winter down time. We go over all safety aspects of the hobby including proper handling of the rifle, as well as proper rifle firing techniques. We also drill the troops, so they are ready to maneuver properly while fighting in the field. All personal equipment is checked to make sure that each member of the 69th PVI is ready to take the field safely.

The School of Soldier event will be shared with the 50th PVI. The 50th PVI is from Berks County, Schuylkill County, Lancaster County, and Luzerne County. The 50th was mostly a German unit. They were known by General Grant as “Old Reliable”. The 50th PVI was at Ft. Wagner with the 54th Mass. You may have seen the movie “Glory” which covers this battle at the end of the film.

The Hay Creek Valley Historical Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization dedicated to the preservation and education of America’s iron heritage. Net proceeds from this event support the restoration and educational projects of The Hay Creek Valley Historical Association and Joanna Furnace, a historically significant 18th and 19th-century charcoal-fueled iron furnace. Anyone wishing to find more information about the 2019 events or educational programs at Joanna Furnace can visit the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association website at or call 610-286-0388. The Joanna Furnace site is located three miles north of Morgantown, along Route 10. For entrance turn at Furnace Road.