Western Chester County Life Fall/Winter 2020

Page 18

Western Chester County Life|

Explore iron country

The Iron and Steel Trail By Rachel M. Cathell


t the dawn of the 19th century, the steel industry in Pennsylvania barreled forward in creating a modern industrial society that lead many to consider the Keystone state as the “steel capitol of the world”; a title the state would hold for almost a century. It all started in the 1700’s when the state’s natural resources led to the establishment of small iron making sites. The region was home to colonial America’s largest iron empire and companies that went on to forge steel for American transportation, infrastructure and defense. For generations, the remnants of this history have continued to stand somewhat obscured and dispersed, ultimately influencing the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum (NISHM) to develop the Iron and Steel Trail map for adventure seekers. The trail creates a unique spin on trail mapping by taking the region’s significant industrial heritage and piecing it together to create a self-guided user experience. The map contains 9 historic sites for users to contemplate and directs them as far south as Coatesville and upward to Pottstown, winding through the rolling rich landscape of Chester County. Executive Director of NISHM, Jim Zeigler explained, “We found that many of our visitors were also interested in seeing other nearby iron and steel sites, so the trail tour brochure is a piece we can provide for further information about local sites and locations.” Trail users can start at any point they choose. Zeigler explains, “Each site along the trail is unique in its history of product, people and process. The visitor experience differs at each location.” Every mark on the map offers a great open-air opportunity for a day of socially-distanced adventure. If users kick off at the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum, they will find a location central to the Pennsylvania iron and steel story. It was here in 1810 that Isaac Pennock established the Brandywine Iron Works & Nail Factory. In 1825, his daughter, Rebecca Lukens began managing the iron business and later became America’s first female industrialist. The business evolved into Lukens Steel Company and the steel site still operates today under the ownership of ArcelorMittal.



2020 • Volume 7——

The Brandywine Rolling Mill in 1880 (then the Lukens Mill) taken shortly before its demolition.