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Curtin Village


Curtin Village was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

Description

Curtin (also known as Curtin Village, Eagle Ironworks) and the Eagle Ironworks began in 1810 when Roland Curtin established Eagle Forge in a wooded area northwest of Bellefonte. The present furnace stack was built in 1847 to replace an 1817 stack. A gristmill was built by Philip Antes about 1820 and sold to Curtin in 1825. In 1828 a rolling mill was added and in 1832 another furnace built. A canal was constructed in the 1840's and opened in 1847.

The iron manufacturing necessitated houses for the workers. Most of the workers' homes are along a circle road across the Nittany Creek with a few other ones scattered over the village area. The original mansion was built about 1830 and in the latter half of the nineteenth century another Curtin home was built to the east of the 1830 house.

The village changed much over the one-hundred-eleven years of its existence with the new innovations in iron production.

Present: Curtin sits in a wooded region of Centre County northwest of Bellefonte, easily reached by an interstate highway. It remains much as it did when the furnace "blew out" in 1921 for the last time. Today it is strictly a residential community with only the ruins of industrial facilities to remind it of its past.

Structures of importance standing at Curtin today are:

  • 1830 mansion presently being restored
  • late nineteenth century frame Victorian house
  • Eagle Furnace stack, 1847
  • four partial walls of the gristmill
  • numerous workers' houses
  • overgrown canal basin

Significance

Curtin is a former ironmaster's plantation typical of those once found in the iron regions of Pennsylvania in the early part of the nineteenth century. It was a self-sustaining community which functioned for over a hundred years under the auspices of the Curtin family.

The history of Curtin and the Eagle Ironworks begins in 1810 when Roland Curtin and Miles Boggs formed a partnership to construct a forge along the Bald Eagle Creek. This partnership lasted until 1815 when apparently Boggs sold his interest and Curtin became the sole owner. Curtin, an Irish immigrant, came to the United States in 1793 to escape the terror of the French Revolution in Paris where he was a student. About 1800 when Centre County was organized Curtin came to Bellefonte to live and immediately became involved in county politics serving first as coroner and later as sheriff. In 1810 he married Margery Gregg, the daughter of United States Senator Andrew Gregg of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

The site was chosen by Curtin because of the relatively high quality iron deposits found in the valley, the dense forests for fuel in the furnace, a ready supply of limestone for a flux, and a water supply for power. In 1907 the Curtin plantation consisted of ten thousand acres of land of which seven thousand were timber. The ore used at the Eagle ironworks was hematite, a red iron ore, and was obtained from "banks" a few miles from the works. The products of these works consisted of charcoal, bloom, bar, and rod iron. The yearly capacity of the furnace was about two thousand tons of pig metal. From 1887 to 1899 charcoal iron was eclipsed entirely by coke iron and nearly all the furnaces in central Pennsylvania closed except for three of which Curtin was one. Today the Eagle Ironworks is the only remaining one.

Primarily, Curtin was a self-contained community producing much of its required foodstuffs and goods and importing a minimum number of goods, supplies, and services from the outside. Curtin, as in all ironmaster's communities, had its own social structure with the ironmaster and his immediate family at the top and the other positions being determined by one's occupation.

Transportation was a major factor in the successful operation of the Eagle Ironworks and they were in a position to take advantage of each improved mode of transportation. The Bald Eagle and Spring Creek Navigation Company canal was not opened until about 1847. It provided a waterway to Lock Haven and the Susquehanna River. Although the canal was an improvement over the old land routes the twenty-seven locks along its way was its downfall. The railroad replaced the canal. Curtin was reached by the Pennsylvania Railroad through the Tyrone Division including the Tyrone Branch, the Bald Eagle Valley, the Lewisburg and Tyrone, and the Tyrone and Clearfield railroads. Recognizing the importance of transportation, the Curtin family took an active part in community affairs having major roles in the development of first the canal and later the railroad system. Due to the rate of production and family influence, a rail station was established at Curtin. Many furnaces were closed because of the lack of direct rail connection. The station at Curtin was called Curtin and the post office Roland.

The facilities of Curtin can be divided into two general areas: those supporting iron production and those sustaining the community. The principal structure for iron production was the furnace of which only the stack remains. It is stone and was loaded from the top with the ore being hauled up a ramp. Eagle Forge was used to hammer out the residual impurities. In 1828 a rolling mill was built south of the village area. Another furnace, known as Martha's Furnace, was built about 1832 as a new source of iron but sold in 1848. Neither the rolling mill nor the 1832 furnace are in the Curtin historic district area.

In 1825 Curtin purchased from Philip Antes a gristmill and a sawmill which were located across the road from the forge and furnace. Four partial walls, structurally unsafe, are all that remain of the gristmill today. The location of the sawmill is unknown presently. Other buildings in the area of the village helping to sustain the community were a store, railroad station, a church, and a school.

The houses at Curtin are of two types: those of the workers and those of the ironmaster and his family. Most of the workers' houses remain on a loop road across the Nittany Creek northeast of the mansion. These houses are one-and-a-half to two-story frame structures of various sizes. Several still display their original log exteriors and are in fair condition while others have been covered with siding and are in fairly good condition. A few other houses are scattered over the village site, however, some of these may be recent additions.

There are two houses representing the ironmaster's family. The most significant one is the mansion built by Roland Curtin about 1830. It had been the Curtin family home for seven generations until abandoned in 1951. The mansion is a two-and-a-half story stone structure with the exterior walls stuccoed. The basic style is Federal with touches of Georgian and Victorian alterations. It should be noted that there is no evidence of Greek Revival which was popular in this section of Pennsylvania at that time. The plan is one with a central hallway with four main rooms and the kitchen in an ell with all the rooms having a fireplace at the gable end. A descendent of Roland Curtin built a two-and-a-half story frame Victorian house east of the 1830 mansion. However, this house was never the center of the community as the mansion was. It was from the home of the ironmaster that leadership for the community came. Joys, sorrows, directions, and support were forthcoming from it. The ironmaster at Curtin never failed to live up to his responsibility.

In 1828 Roland Curtin, Sr. took into business three of his sons: Austin, James, and Roland, Jr. Another son, Andrew Gregg Curtin, served as Pennsylvania's Civil War Governor. Governor Curtin was a trustee advisor, supporter, and friend of President Lincoln. In 1848 Roland, Sr. retired from the business leaving it to be operated by one of his family until 1921 when the furnace "blew out" for the last time.

The history of early iron making in central Pennsylvania lies undisturbed by progress in this small community. Although easily reached by an interstate highway, Curtin remains much as it did when the Eagle Ironworks closed in 1921. The one-hundred-eleven years of iron production in this village contributed to today's industrial and social status of Pennsylvania. That Eagle Furnace was in active production for such a long period and that so much of the community remains combine to make the restoration of Curtin a valuable and desirable project.

References

Centre County in Pictures, 1800-1950. Centre County Historical Society.

Dubbs, Paul. Where to Go and Place-Names of Centre County, a collection of articles from the "Centre Daily Times," 1959-1960. June, 1961. p. 37.

Historical Restoration, Roland Curtin Mansion and Grounds, Curtain Village, preliminary study. Berger-Parsons-Spiers Architects and Engineers. August, 1970.

Linn, John B. History of Centre and Clinton Counties. Philadelphia: Louis Everts, 1883.

King, William G. Development of a Master Plan Approach for Historic Restorations Utilizing Curtin Village as a Case Study. State College, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University, 1969.

Maynard, D. S. Industries and Institutions of Centre County. Bellefonte, Pa.: Richie and Maynard, 1877.

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Museums, files. Harrisburg, Pa.

  1. Pennsylvania Register of Historic Landmarks, Curtin Village, nomination document, 1971, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Curtin Village Map

Street Names
Curtin Hollow Road • Eagle Valley Road North

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