Dale Furnace Historic District
The Dale Furnace and Forge Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
Dale Furnace and Forge Historic District is located north of the village of Dale along the West Branch of the Perkiomen Creek. It lies in a valley, with a steep hill to its west, and land gradually sloping off to its east. The district consists of both architectural and archaeological resources. These include the furnace mansion, barn, horse barn, office, a worker's house, and the archaeological remains of an additional worker's house. There are also the remains of two iron furnaces, a forge, and the dam breast. The resources in this district are primarily constructed of stone.
We are fortunate that there is an excellent map of Dale Furnace and Forge available that dates back to 1835, showing the location of the principal structures of the iron plantation. Shown on the map, flanking the creek are the ironmaster's house, the barn, horse barn, bake oven, wash house and smoke house, worker's housing, furnace, forge, charcoal house, counting house, and the dam. A number of additional dwellings and attendant structures were located north of the furnace but are no longer standing.
With the number of resources in the district which are still extant, or whose location is still readily apparent, Dale has excellent integrity.
The complex includes the following resources:
1. horse barn, c. 1850
2. bank barn, c. 1850
3. shed, 20th century - noncontributing
4. ironmaster's mansion, 1791, 1827.
5. smoke house and wash house, c. 1827
6. archaeological sites
6B. stone furnace stack, c. 1791
6C. bank iron furnace, 18th century
6D. forge foundations and race, c. 1804-1811
6E. remnants of dam breast
7. worker's house, c. 1830
8. counting house (furnace office and post office), 1827, 1854
Dale Furnace, an iron plantation, represents an important and relatively well-preserved iron plantation of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The complex retains its general layout and scale, although the industrial component is primarily archaeological. Those remains, which are significant under Criterion D, are distinct and well documented (particularly with the aid of the extant 1835 map of the complex), and have the potential to yield important information about the furnace layout, the products manufactured there, and the lifestyles of the workers and ironmaster. Dale Furnace is notable for its architectural significance. Its mansion is representative in quality of ironmaster's mansions. It is also one of the most sophisticated examples of Federal style residences in the local area. The building has excellent integrity both on the exterior and interior. Also notable is the Carpenter Gothic office building (1827/1854), with its unusual bargeboards, a delightful example of vernacular architecture.
The Dale Furnace was built by Joseph and Thomas Potts in 1791 on the West Branch of the Perkiomen Creek. In 1792 the assessment records indicate that the property consisted of 250 acres, 17 horses, 3 cows, a saw mill, and a furnace. By 1799, Dale Furnace was listed as the property of Miles and Hobart. Much of the ore for the furnace was brought from the mines near present-day Boyertown. The furnace produced stoves, skillets, kettles, anvils, and other household items. By 1805, the property had increased to 318 acres.
A forge was constructed sometime between 1804-1811 and the works became known as the Dale Iron Works. There are accounts of ordnance being dug at the site, possibly supporting the claim that the furnace produced small cannon balls and canister shells during the War of 1812. By 1820, the furnace was owned by Dr. Jacob Loeser. Under his management, the furnace was "blown out" c. 1821-1822. Loeser died in 1823, but the property remained in his name until 1826, when it was sold to George Schall and his son David, who purchased the property for $11,900. For almost forty-five years, David Schall ran Dale Forge.
There is no evidence that the furnace was ever in blast after 1822. Instead, the center of activity became the forge. The forge was described as having two hearths, and two hammers -- one of 500 pounds, and the other 600 pounds. They were each operated by undershot water wheels at the gable ends of the building. Blast for the hearths was supplied by two large bellows operated by an overshot wheel. Most of the pig iron used in the forge after the closing of the furnace came from Mary Ann, with some from Joanna and Hopewell Furnaces, all located in Berks County, and Hampton Furnace, just across the Lehigh County line. The forge produced both bloom and bar iron. In addition, it produced finished products including chisels, hinges, sledges, hammers, axles, railroad car axle trees, plows, etc. Based on the account books, business at the forge appears to have slackened after 1853. When Hampton Furnace, the last of their suppliers went out of blast in 1868, Dale Forge closed as well. The completion of the Colebrookdale spur of the Reading Railroad in 1869 to nearby Barto came too late to revive the forge.
David Schall died at Dale Farm on January 26, 1877 at the age of seventy six. The Dale Furnace mansion has remained in the Schall family until the present day.
Bining, Arthur. Pennsylvania Iron Manufacture in the Eighteenth Century. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1938.
Dale Furnace Account Books, 1799-1801. ms. Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Gemmell, Alfred. "Dale Iron Works - Dale Furnace, 1791-1822: Dale Forge, 1804-1868." Historical Review of Bucks County. XIV (1949).
Montgomery, Morton. History of Berks County in Pennsylvania. 1886 Philadelphia: Everts, Peck and Richards, 1975.