Lock 60, in Mont Clare, was one of 71 locks in operation along the Schuylkill Navigation System. It was built and expanded in the first half of the 19th century. Lock 60 is at the upper end of a 3 1/2-mile canal historically known as Oaks Reach. It was here that boats entered or exited the canal from the slackwater pool created behind the Black Rock Dam, about one-mile upstream from Lock 60.
The 108-mile-long Schuylkill Navigation System was not a continuous canal, but 23 short canals connected by river passage in slack water dam pools. The navigation system was built to transport people and consumable goods from the northeast regions of Pennsylvania to the port of Philadelphia. Once anthracite coal was discovered to be the most efficient form of energy to fire furnaces and operate mills, the navigation system became a critical transportation route fueling our nation’s Industrial Revolution.
Historic Reeves’ Park
Historic Reeves’ Park has been Phoenixville’s public square since 1872. The land, located between 3rd and 4th Avenues, and Starr and Main Streets, was the gift of David Reeves, President of the Phoenix Iron Company. The park has always played an important role in the life of the borough. Its band shell, which was restored using period postcards from 1908, has been the scene of many concerts and gatherings. The famous Griffen Cannon produced by the Phoenix Iron Company and utilized throughout the Civil War, remains proudly on display on the park grounds. The Dogwood Festival enlivens the park each May with amusements, rides, and food. A children’s playground is the park’s most modern adornment.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Valley Forge National Historical Park commemorates the 1777-1778 winter encampment of General George Washington and the Continental Army. Here you can explore the rolling landscape that helped create a nation.
There are parade grounds, fortifications, woods and open fields. You can peek into a soldiers’ hut to see what life was like during this long, cold winter. Monuments throughout the park help to tell the story of this perilous time.
A visit to the Welcome Center is a must. There are films about the encampment, lectures and displays that help to illustrate this revolutionary time. The gift shop is packed with books and items that share this time in our nation’s history. Park Rangers provide a wealth of programs and demonstrations that tell the story and are family friendly. Bus and trolley tours are available. The new Once Upon a Nation storytelling program illustrates the story of the Revolutionary War experience.
Washington’s Headquarters is another must stop on a tour of this national park. A hiking and biking trail encompasses the site and provides recreational activities for residents and visitors alike.
Check the website for a wealth of programs and activities at Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Springton Manor Farm
Springton Manor Farm is a 300 acre William Penn Manor, in agricultural use since the 1700’s. It overlooks centuries-old sugar maples, open pastures and stately Penn Oaks, which grace the lower pond. A Victorian garden, gazebo butterfly house and tiled terrace enhance the ambiance of this historic Chester County home.
Here families can experience life on a farm with livestock in the pastures and barn plus exhibits of antique farming equipment. Catch and release fishing is enjoyed in the pond and hiking trails add to the visitor experience. Special events are scheduled throughout the year along with educational school programs and summer camps.
The Manor House is also available for weddings, business meetings, family gatherings, class reunions or other special celebrations. Host your event surrounded by old world elegance and warmth in the Victorian period rooms. Full catering facilities are on-site.
Springton Manor Farm is a facility of the Chester Country Parks and Recreation Department. Call for information.
Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site
In America’s industrial infancy, tall stone structures venting smoke and flames were a familiar part of the rural landscape. These charcoal-fueled iron furnaces produced the versatile metal crucial to the nation’s growth. For over a century, Hopewell was one of the hundreds of “iron plantations” built around this technology. Here generations of ironmasters, craftsmen, and workers produced iron goods during war and peace – ranging from cannon and shot to the well-known Hopewell stove and domestic items such as pots and sash weights. Shared social and family bonds in an atmosphere of reasonable cooperation made these plantations stable and productive communities, the base on which America’s iron and steel industry was founded.
Mark Bird built Hopewell Furnace in 1771. Early colonists had carried blast furnace technology to America in the mid-17th century and by the time of the Revolution, American forges, furnaces and mills were turning out a seventh of the world’s iron goods much to the chagrin of England. Pennsylvania was the most important iron-producing center in the colonies. Over the years with several different owners, the iron production declined. The Civil War era gave the furnace a temporary reprieve, but the old rural charcoal-fired and water-powered furnaces were transformed to urban concentrations of steam-powered, hot-blast coke and anthracite furnaces. In the summer of 1883, Hopewell Furnace made its final blast.
Today, the site is restored to the period of 1820-40. A tour will interpret the role of the ironmaster and the founder and demonstrate the iron-making process. When “in blast”, the community worked in rhythm to assure the quality of the product. A tour of the park will show you life at the furnace including the ironmaster’s mansion, the springhouse and smokehouse for storing and curing foods, the tenant houses and boarding houses for the workers, the schoolhouse ruins. The blacksmith shop is operational to show the work produced there and the cast house also demonstrates the moulders casting iron into stove plates and other products.
Hopewell Furnace is open daily except for most federal holidays. In summer, activities depicting village occupations are presented. Guided tours are given. Check the website for special events and programs. Nearby French Creek State Park has picnicking, camping and swimming facilities.
Brandywine Battlefield is where General George Washington’s courageous troops battle the British, in the heat of September, 1777, for control of strategic territory near Philadelphia. It was the largest single day land battle of the American Revolution. Although the Americans were defeated at Brandywine, their courageous stand helped convince France to form an alliance with the rebels – a union which turned the tide in favor of the Americans. It was here that young General Marquis de Lafayette fought his first American battle.
The Brandywine campaign comes alive for today’s visitors as they walk through fascinating exhibits and dioramas in the Visitor Center. Two historic Quaker farmhouses, which housed officers during the battle and served as Washington’s headquarters, stand much as they did in 1777. Guides help visitors appreciate the effects of war on the citizens of the peaceful valley.
Picnic tables are available to visitors on 52 acres of rolling Delaware County countryside. This site is administered by the Brandywine Battlefield Park Commission in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. For information about visiting hours or special programs call 717 787-1019. Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and Noon – 5 p.m. on Sunday. Closed on Monday. Closed Monday to Wednesday in December, January and February.
Black Rock Sanctuary
The Black Rock Sanctuary is located on Route 113 north of Phoenixville. It consists of 119 acres of wetlands, woodlands and meadows dedicated to wildlife habitat and public use. A bird sanctuary, this site becomes an outdoor classroom highlighting the breeding and nestling habitat of rare and endangered migratory water fowl.
The Black Rock Sanctuary is located on the Atlantic Coast fly-way for migration stop-bys due to its pond, river and other natural attractions. What once was a coal-silted area, this has become an important nature center hidden in a safe location. Displays highlight the self-guided interpretive trail.
The sanctuary is open daily from 8 a.m. to the posted sunset time. Check the website for the park newsletter to see a map of the area as well as planned programs and events.