Laurel Hill Iron Furnace
The Laurel Hill Iron Furnace was built in 1846 by Hezekiah Reed, Gallagher, and Hale and operated until 1855. This is one of the best-preserved of Pennsylvania’s old iron blast furnaces.
Before the Civil War, America’s iron industry was characterized by numerous small producers, like the Laurel Hill Iron Furnace, scattered throughout the country. At one time, there were nine iron furnaces in Ligonier Valley. This area had a generous supply of the resources needed to make iron: deposits of iron ore, limestone, oak forests to supply wood for charcoal, and water power. The decline of these local furnaces was caused by the growth of the railroad industry during the Civil War which allowed the centralization of iron production in the “big cities”.
The major product of the Laurel Hill Iron Furnace was pig iron which was later converted to products at other locations. But the local furnace also cast hollow and flatware such as pots, pans, kettles, bells, weathervanes, stoves, and horse shoes in various sizes. The ironman who produced them was called a “potter” and carried his molds from furnace to furnace, casting enough items at each site to meet local demand.
The Laurel Hill Iron Furnace was a boost to the local economy as it employed many people. The operation took 15 to 20 men, working in 12 hour shifts around the clock. An additional 40-50 support jobs were created to cut wood for charcoal, haul ore and limestone, and move the finished product.
To see this interesting piece of history, drive out 711 North to New Florence. At the near-edge of town, look for the New Florence sign and turn right onto Furnace Lane. Go to the second road on the right. This road leads into Pennsylvania Game Lands 42 and crosses Baldwin Run. The furnace is on your left. Distance from New Florence is about a mile.