Historic Site #9
Though the roar of the iron furnaces no longer echoes through the hills of Vinton County, Hope Furnace is a reminder of days gone by at Lake Hope State Park. Situated in the northern reaches of Ohio's Hanging Rock Iron Region, Lake Hope State Park reflects the rich history of much of southeastern Ohio.
The Hanging Rock Iron Region was once one of the largest iron-producing regions in the nation. The area did not become an iron-producing juggernaut by chance. The area was endowed with all the raw materials necessary to manufacture charcoal iron. By the time of the Civil War, Ohio had established 69 iron blast furnaces and produced more than 100,000 tons of iron each year.
Constructed in 1853-54, the Hope Furnace processed iron ore extracted from the region's sandstone bedrock. Charcoal fires, needed to fuel the furnace, were tended 24 hours a day. This process required so much wood that the surrounding hillsides were stripped of timber. Hundreds of men labored, cutting timber, working the furnace, and driving oxen teams that hauled iron ore to the furnace.
At the height of the Hope Furnace's production, Ohio was one of the nation's leading producers of iron. As time passed, iron ore was discovered farther west, and Ohio's reputation as a major iron producer waned. The Hope Furnace shut down in 1874, after only 20 years of operation.
Today, the Hope Furnace chimney and some of the foundation are all that remain of the structure. Near the chimney, one may find pieces of slag, the cast-off residue from the smelting process. These pock-marked, glass-like pieces have now become a part of the forest floor. A historical marker at the site describes Ohio's Hanging Rock Iron Region.