Philadelphia-area Historic Site Threatened by Lack of Funds

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   October 12, 2004
Contact:   Andrea Keller, NPCA, 202-454-3332


Philadelphia-area Historic Site Threatened by Lack of Funds

Washington, D.C. - A new report released today by the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) reveals that insufficient funding threatens the 19th-century Pennsylvania iron-making community preserved by Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.

“Hopewell Furnace teaches us how Pennsylvania helped build and defend the nation,” said NPCA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Joy Oakes. “But the National Park Service needs additional funding to preserve the park’s buildings and historic treasures so this story can be told.”

Park managers at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site have requested an increase of $2.7 million annually to bolster the current $1-million annual operating budget, which is inadequate to protect and repair the historic buildings that illustrate the history of the Hopewell community and iron making.

According to NPCA’s new State of the Parks® report, approximately half of the park’s historic structures are in only fair or poor condition, at risk of further deterioration without additional funding or staff for regular maintenance. Hopewell Furnace also needs additional storage space for an extensive museum and archival collection of nearly 300,000 objects, including archaeological artifacts such as pottery shards, historic furnishings from the 1800s, maps, industrial equipment, and even business ledgers. Adequate fire suppression and climate-control systems are also needed to protect the park’s historic structures and museum objects. High humidity, for example, is causing some leather and metal artifacts to deteriorate.

Regrettably, the financial needs of the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site are echoed across the park system. Research by NPCA has revealed that national parks across the country operate with only two-thirds of the needed funding—an annual shortfall in excess of $600 million system-wide.

Located an hour outside of Philadelphia, Hopewell was a profitable iron-making community from 1771 until the furnace shut down in 1883—manufacturing stoves, kettles, and machinery for cities up and down the East Coast. In 1935, the federal government acquired 4,000 acres, including the entire Hopewell community, from the descendant of the last ironmaster’s family with the intention of using the land for Civilian Conservation Corps recreational activities during the Great Depression. But National Park Service historians knew of the area’s compelling stories and successfully convinced the Department of Interior in 1938 to designate the iron-making community Hopewell Village National Historic Site; by 1985, the boundaries were refined and the name changed to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.

Today, the 848-acre park is the best-preserved 18th and 19th-century iron-making community in the U.S. The Park Service site includes more than 50 buildings that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including the original blast furnace, historic homes of the ironmaster and laborers, and a working farm.

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. The product of a yearlong analysis, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site: A Resource Assessment, is the 18th NPCA State of the Parks report.

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