July 25: Back to the country, and a “Henry Ford Museum lightbulb machine moment”

I took Loralee to the Baltimore airport this morning. I have to say that a) I’m going to miss her, but I’m seriously glad to be out of that motel, and b) it’s so good to be out of the city!

I drove around Baltimore on its beltway, then headed northeast on the same highway Katrina and Teri and I took to get to Longwood the other day. I turned off before I passed it, though, and headed up into Pennsylvania.

Is it just me or does this look like Kansas?  Along the road in Pennsylvania.
Is it just me or does this look like Kansas? Along the road in Pennsylvania.

I’m generally headed for New England now, but while I was looking at the map last night, I noticed a place on the map marked Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Curious about why a furnace would be historical [g], I headed in that direction. As it turned out, Hopewell Furnace was what I think of as a Henry Ford Museum lightbulb machine.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Sometimes you (or I, at any rate) take things for granted, without thinking about how they’ve come to be, until you see something that jolts you and makes you realize that, no, these things do not spring full blown from the head of Zeus. My primary example is the lightbulb machine in the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, which I saw on my last Long Trip 17 years ago. Now tell me. Have you ever thought about how light bulbs are manufactured? I didn’t think so.

Well, yesterday I learned how cast iron was made back in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was something I’d never considered before. It was made by hand, by skilled craftsmen, each one supported by an infrastructure and a cadre of workers, then the results were hauled off by horse and wagon to the cities where they were sold. I had no idea that iron was originally smelted using charcoal, and that places like Hopewell Furnace went through hundreds of cords of wood every year.

Butterflies on purple coneflowers at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
Butterflies on purple coneflowers at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
Stoves cast at Hopewell Furnace in the 1800s.
Stoves cast at Hopewell Furnace in the 1800s.
Part of the CCC-restored (of course) Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.  The house is the home of the owner of the furnace.
Part of the CCC-restored (of course) Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. The house is the home of the owner of the furnace.
A charcoal pit, where so much wood was burned so iron could be smelted.
A charcoal pit, where so much wood was burned so iron could be smelted.
Looking back towards the cooling sheds, where the charcoal was cooled before being used in the furnace.
Looking back towards the cooling sheds, where the charcoal was cooled before being used in the furnace.

Hopewell provided iron for cannons at Yorktown and in the Civil War, as well as cookstoves that were prized for decades, and many kinds of smaller pieces.

Anyway, the site was fascinating, although the heat and humidity made walking around the actual reconstructed town problematic, of course. The visitor center had a terrific little movie about the place, too.

A very strange sign along the roadside in Pennsylvania.
A very strange sign along the roadside in Pennsylvania.
I absolutely love the old stone houses in this part of the world.
I absolutely love the old stone houses in this part of the world.

After I left Hopewell Furnace, I headed towards somewhere I’d stayed at on my last Long Trip, a hostel in a state park about an hour northwest of Philadelphia. It’s in an old stone house that was the landowner’s before he gave the land to the state, and it’s a peaceful, quiet spot, which I much appreciated.

With the proprietor’s help, I also found a laundromat, so I’m set for clean clothes again for a while. And I managed to keep from getting drowned when the skies opened again, too.