Anyone and everyone who knows about Hocking Hills seems to be familiar with the classics: Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls… and don’t get me wrong, being just a short drive from these popular destinations is one of the greatest parts about the location of Ravenwood Castle. The scenic waterfalls, sloping landscapes, and spectacular sights are enough to make anyone want to come back to the area again and again but sometimes it is easy to forget just how rich in history the region is. Some lesser-known landmarks are worth a visit and this week on Quoth the Raven we want to bring Hope Furnace into the spotlight.
Located only 20 minutes from the Castle, Hope Furnace is a blast furnace that was built somewhere around 1853 and was one of the 69 charcoal iron furnaces in the area. By 1860 Ohio’s furnaces were producing 100,000 tons of iron annually! Hope Furnace and the other Ohio sites were considered part of the Hanging Rock Iron Region which extends nearly 100 miles. This specific area had all the components and natural resources necessary to produce high quality iron. The years of 1830 to 1900 were when the region was at its peak and was credited as producing the majority of iron for the entire country. Since Ohio was dominating the iron industry it soon became seen as one of the frontrunners and allowed these areas of Ohio to economically blossom.
The primary role of the furnace was to smelt iron ore using charcoal or coal as fuel – but what exactly does “smelt” mean? Smelting is the “process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal” and isn’t just used to produce iron, but other metals such as silver, iron, and copper. The charcoal fires needed to be tended to 24 hours a day and the entire process required so much wood that many surrounding areas were stripped of their timber. In its heyday the furnace was the central part of a small community of nearly 300 people and today, although the buildings are destroyed, the chimney of Hope Furnace and the pieces of slag that can still be found near its base stand as marker of Ohio’s involvement in the iron industry.
Hope Furnace ceased production only 20 years after its inception due to iron ore being discovered further west and this discovery eventually led to Ohio’s reputation as the leader in the industry coming to a close. While Hope Furnace may be long gone to the past there are stories of a watchman who still makes an appearance on dark and stormy nights. If you want to read more about the Hope Furnace lore and its lonely protector, click here. Spooky!
If you’re planning on making your way to check out Hope Furnace for yourself there’s two parking lots within only a minute or two from the structure itself and public restrooms. There are plenty of signs explaining the history of the furnace and if you’re feeling up to it, a handful of hiking trails to explore afterwards. The open field leading up to the furnace can be muddy, so bring your best pair of boots and enjoy soaking up some of Ohio’s past.