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Warwick Furnace Farms


Warwick Furnace Farms was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. 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

Despite the advanced deterioration of the furnace itself, many of the complex of associated buildings still stand and offer a sense of the eighteenth-century appearance of Warwick Furnace. Among the buildings recorded in the 1798 Glass Tax, the stone manor house, stone spring house, stone tenant houses, stone coal house, stone barn, and stone smokehouse remain.

The manor house, the original portion of which was built about 1733, has been extensively remodeled and restored in the twentieth century such that its exact early appearance is difficult to perceive. The house consists of two distinct wings: a west wing composed of the original house and a mid-eighteenth century addition, and an east wing added between the 1787 sketch of the house on a survey map and the 1738 listing of the house in the Glass Tax records. The 1787 sketch map shows the house composed of two sections, equivalent in size to the house's present west wing. The 1798 Glass Tax measurements of 36 x 76 feet are close to the house's current overall measurements, which include both the west and east wings together. The west wing is of random fieldstone with large corner quoins. It is two and one-half stories high and has a gable roof. The west wing is now six bays wide across the south elevation, but an early twentieth-century photograph shows it as only five boys wide, with the last bay of windows on the west added since then within the existing walls. The early twentieth-century photograph also shows six-on-six light windows which have since been replaced by twelve-on-twelve light windows on the first floor and eight-on-twelve light attic dormers which are not original. The stucco which covered the house in the early twentieth century has been removed.

The east wing is of random fieldstone with large corner quoins and is two and one-half stories high and has a gable roof. It is three bays wide on the south elevation and two bays deep on the east gable end. A pent eave crosses the south elevation between the first and second floors. It replaced the one-story wooden veranda seen in the early twentieth-century photographs.

Little of the original interior remains after the extensive remodeling and restoration of the house in the twentieth century. The east wing retains some original panelling incorporated with that added during the house's restoration.

To the east of the Warwick Furnace Manor house is the Warwick Farm house. The large plastered stone house has grown in numerous stages from modest beginnings and renovations over the years have been such that the exact form of its original section is difficult to determine.

The oldest major portion is the two story center section which now houses the kitchen, two bays wide by one room across. The gable roof runs perpendicular to the slope of the site, and there is a large stone chimney structure at the uphill end. It was probably constructed in the early nineteenth century or at the end of the eighteenth.

To the chimney end, set into the hill, is attached a section which appears originally to have been one story high, with a loft. The fireplace opening of the large chimney opens into this room, which was probably the original kitchen. There is a possibility that this small section may pre-date the two story portion, as its dimensions approximate those of one of the small stone houses listed for the Warwick Furnace Complex on the 1798 Glass Tax. This latter section was later raised to two stories, and the roof of the larger section extended to cover it.

A two bay wing was then extended to the east, set into the bank, with a cooking fireplace at its end. Irregularities in the exterior stonework suggest that this section too may originally have been one story, with a shed roof, but it is now two stories with its gable roof running at right angles to that of the preceding section. Roofs of the entire early portion have box cornices, with partial returns at the gable ends. Windows are six-over-six throughout, except for loft windows, and are of generous proportions.

In the 1850's a large two and a half story section, five bays wide and two bays deep, was added across the downhill end, parallel to the road, and this became the main part of the house. Laid out and appointed in the style of the day, it has a large center hall with gracefully curving staircase. Heavy bracketed cornice mouldings with deep overhangs and generous returns extend across the front of the house. The front cornice is broken by a peaked center gable with one window. There are chimney structures at each end, internal at one end and external at the other, but they are of smaller size, designed for stove flues.

There is a single bay between the older and newer sections which accommodates a stair hall, entered by a door at what is now the side of the house. It appears from the outside as a part of the older section, but may have been built concurrently with the 1850's addition. The interior of the front section is largely original, but renovation and redecoration have masked many original details in the older section.

Of the furnace itself, only the ruins of the heavy fieldstone walls remain. Its full deterioration has taken place only within the past sixty years. A 1917 newspaper article describes the appearance of the furnace and the beginnings of its decay:

"The walks in front have given away; of what is standing, much of it is covered with ivy. The woodwork, or frame has all fallen, but the furnace proper is yet in a fair good state of preservation. The furnace is built somewhat in the shape of a large limekiln with two openings — one facing the south, the other, the east."

Tenant Houses: The original stone portions of the three tenant houses remaining are typical of the larger tenant houses within the Warwick Furnace Farm Complex. Of random fieldstone with large corner quoins two arc two stories while one is one and one-half stories high. The double tenant house is unusual for its large central chimney and twin entrances on the front facade of the structure.

Log Cabin: This building is set into a steep stone bank near the main house, but a stone retaining wall allows light to reach the lower windows at its ends. The lower level is of stone, the upper level of logs and the gable ends are wood siding. There are two doors an the downhill side at the lower level but no doors or windows on the uphill side.

Springhouse: Located about halfway between the spring and the main house, water from the spring was fed by gravity into the lower level of this stone structure by a wooden sluice. The building is set into the bank so that its storage loft is entered from grade on the uphill end. A frame extension of the upper level bridges across to a large stone chimney structure standing about six feet away from the building, forming an open covered breezeway between the fireplace and springhouse.

Smokehouse: Set into the bank just behind the main house is a stone building which has been remodelled to serve as a laundry, but which appears to have been a smokehouse. The gable roof with stone chimney at one corner extends along the retaining wall beyond the building to form an area for wood storage.

Cellars: A small deep stone-walled structure is built high on the bank behind the house, with its gable roof just above grade. It is known as the ice house, and may also have served as a root cellar. Some distance from the house, toward the barns, is a vaulted stone root cellar, dug into the bank and covered with sod.

Barns: The dairy barn appears to be the oldest of the three barn structures built in a line along the slope to the east of the house. It is a large plastered stone bank barn with a stone bay on one end and a frame forebay supported by cylindrical stone pillars on the downhill side. The area under the forebay has been enclosed in masonry and glass in recent years.

The horse barn is a long plastered stone bank building, with a frame forebay supported by cylindrical plastered stone columns. The original stone portion is only the depth of one horse stall. About half of the area under the forebay has now been enclosed with stone.

The barn building closest to the house is set at right angles to the other two with its gable end into the bank. It is of pointed fieldstone, and has large loft doors in its downhill gable end, and ventilating slits in its walls at the loft level. It appears to have been substantially remodelled, making it difficult to determine its original form.

The barn of the Thomas May Potts House is similar to those of the Furnace Farm barns, although smaller. Large conical piers covered with plaster support the upper left, and have been filled-in with walls of random fieldstone.

SIGNIFICANCE

Warwick Furnace Farms combines the Warwick Furnace Farm and the Warwick Farm. Warwick Farm on the eastern end of the property contains a large house and barn. Although the Furnace and charcoal house on the Warwick Furnace Farm to the west are in ruins, the Ironmaster's house, three barns, tenant houses and outbuildings remain in good order. The basic structure of all these buildings antedate the present century.

Buildings from both the Furnace Farm and Warwick Farm are situated on a hill facing Warwick Furnace Road and the South Branch of French Creek. The creek parallels the road and lies just to the south of it. Beyond the creek, a gently rising slope goes to the top of a wooded hill. Thus the property extends from ridge to ridge with boundaries corresponding on the north and south to the topography of the valley.

The history of Warwick Furnace Farms forms a significant part of the history of the early iron industry in the colony and later the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and of the families Nutt, Rutter, Savage and Potts who were its pioneers and later its leaders. Most of the present acreage of Warwick Furnace Farms derives from a tract of land 650 acres which was surveyed to Samuel Nutt, an English Quaker, in 1726 and patented in 1736 by John Thomas and Richard Penn, Esquires, "True and Absolute Governors in Chief of the Province of Pennsylvania."

In 1717 Samuel Nutt had acquired under similar survey and patent 250 acres in Warwick Township which was known as the Mine Tract. The tract furnished the ore for all the early French Creek iron industry. This tract joined a 705 acre tract contiguous on its southern boundary to the 650 acre tract and obtained at the same time. Nutt also had two tracts at Coventry which he acquired between 1717 and 1721 — one by survey and patent and one by purchase from James Pugh. It was here that he established at the confluence of the north and south branches of French Creek the first forge in Chester County and it was here in 1732 that he erected Redding Furnace #l where the first steel in America was made. Nutt was assisted in the Coventry operation with Mordecai Lincoln, the great, great grandfather of Abraham Lincoln, and William Branson.

Shortly after starting the Forge at Coventry, Samuel Nutt married Anna Savage, the daughter of Thomas Rutter, one of the founders of Pool Forge on the Manatawny, the first forge in Pennsylvania. Anna was also the widow of Samuel Savage, Butter's partner and manager at Pool Forge.

Samuel Nutt and Anna lived at Coventry with her four Savage children — Samuel, Thomas, Rebecca, and Ruth. Rebecca, a favorite of her step-father-in-law, married Samuel Nutt, Jr., a nephew of the elder Samuel Nutt, and Ruth married John Potts, the founder of Pottstown and builder of Pottsgrove.

Samuel Nutt was not only a successful ironmaster, but a prominent member of the Colony. From 1723-1726 he represented Chester County in the Assembly. When Patrick Gordon became Governor of Pennsylvania, he was appointed one of the Justices of the King. Nutt had the restlessness and vision of a pioneer. His mind was continually fermenting new projects. He planned a second furnace on the South branch of French Creek. When he died in 1737, he left instructions in his will directing his wife Anna and her Savage sons to proceed with the plans for this furnace. The furnace was completed the following year and was called the Warwick Furnace.

Half of the Coventry part of Samuel Nutt's estate was left to his wife, Anna, and half to Samuel Nutt, Jr. and Rebecca. Samuel Nutt, Jr. died in 1738 leaving Rebecca and a little daughter, Anna. The young widow, twenty at the time, now had extensive property and responsibility. Two years later she married Robert Grace. Robert Grace, who had been trained in metallurgy in England, entered the family business. The Warwick Furnace and Coventry Forge were joined and operated together as the Anna Nutt and Company with Robert Grace as manager.

Robert Grace was a friend of Benjamin Franklin from the years he had lived in Philadelphia with his grandmother. With Franklin, he was a charter member of the Junto. In his Autobiography, Franklin describes Grace as a "young Gentlemen of some Fortune, generous, lively, witty, a Lover of Punning and of his Friends." In 1729 when Franklin and Meredith, his partner in the printing establishment, were sued for 100 pounds, Robert Grace and William Coleman offered to help. Franklin records the deep impression that the spontaneity of these men made upon him:

"...two true Friends whose Kindness I have never forgotten, nor ever shall forget, while I can remember anything, came to me separately, unknown to each other, without any Application from me, offering each of them to advance me all the Money that should be necessary to take the whole Business upon myself if that should be practicable..."

Some years later Franklin showed his gratitude to Grace by giving him without restriction of copyright his design for a new fireplace stove. The Autobiography gives the following account of this transaction.

"In Order of Time I should have mentioned before, that having, in 1742, invented an open Stove, for the better warming of Rooms, and at the same Time saving Fuel, as the fresh Air admitted was warmed in Intring, I made a present of the Model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early Friends, who having an Iron Furnace, found the Casting of the Plates for these Stoves a profitable Thing, as they were growing in Demand. To promote that Demand I wrote and published a Phamphlet Intitled, An Account of the New-Invented Pennsylvania Fire Places..."

The stoves were manufactured at Warwick and were highly successful.

The Warwick Furnace and the Coventry Forge continued to prosper under Robert Grace's management. Casting schedules were reorganized for increased production, new business principles were initiated and the Furnace products were advertised. Weekly production of five tons of pig iron was sufficient to supply Coventry and four other forges. In addition to the pig iron and the stoves, there was a steady production of kettles and irons and clock weights.

In 1765 Robert and Rebecca Grace turned over their interest in both the Furnace and the Forge to Rebecca's son-in-law, Thomas Potts. The following year Robert Grace died. Thomas Potts, son of John and Ruth Potts, had married Anna, the only child of Rebecca and Samuel Nutt, Jr. in 1757. Thomas' brother, Isaac, owned Valley Forge, and it was his home that Washington subsequently used as Headquarters.

Before the Revolution Thomas Potts transferred the Coventry and Warwick properties to his brother, Samuel Potts, and to Thomas Rutter, III. The properties continued to progress under the new ownership and the management of Thomas Bull. During the Revolution, Bull left the Furnace to become an officer in the Continental Army. On his return after the war, he again managed Warwick. During the Revolution, Potts and Rutter had an agreement with the Council of Safety to supply munitions for the Continental Army. The Furnace was designated an official arsenal. In 1776, it produced twenty-three twelve-pound cannon and thirty-seven forty-eight pound cannon.

Washington came to Warwick after the Battle of Brandywine. A bad rainstorm on the way had put his guns out of order. A letter dated Yellow Springs, September 17, 1777 to the President of Congress states:

"Yesterday the enemy moved from Concord, by the Edgemont towards the Lancaster road, with evident design to gain our right flank. This obliged us to alter our position and march to this place, from whence we intend immediately to proceed to Warwic. We suffered much from the severe weather yesterday and last night, being unavoidably separated from our tents and baggage, which not only endangers the health of the men, but has been very injurious to our arms and ammunition. These, when we arrive at Warwic, we shall endeavor, as soon as possible, to put again into a proper condition; to do which, and to refresh the men, are two principal motives for going there."

His letter the following day says:

"The army here is so much fatigued, it is impossible that I should move them this afternoon."

On September 19, Washington wrote both the President of Congress and Anthony Wayne. The letter to Wayne is marked Reading Furnace 6 p.m.

While at Warwick and Reading, guns were repaired and supplies were replenished. The local inhabitants were asked to surrender their clock weights. These were melted down into bullets. When the army left they took with them 180 bushels of oats, 7 tons of hay, 3 sheep and a steer.

Warwick was larger than the average furnace of the day. One local historian claims that it was Pennsylvania's largest furnace after the Revolution. During the latter part of the eighteenth century, iron furnaces averaged about twenty-five tons of pig iron a week, but Warwick often produced forty and over. Naturally, such an output required consumption of large quantities of raw materials. Warwick used five or six thousand cords of wood a year, the harvest of 240 or more acres. Men were needed to make charcoal and many horses were required to bring the charcoal from the woods.

Operation of such a large furnace and farming enterprise required construction of numerous buildings of various types. The Glass Tax of 1798 records the nature of the architectural complex at Warwick during the eighteenth century. The Warwick Furnace manor house, built soon after 1738 and recorded on a 1787 survey map, is listed as one stone dwelling house, 36 by 75 feet, two stories. In addition to the manor house, the complex in 1798 included a stone springhouse, two two-story stone tenant houses, five one and one-half story stone tenant houses, two smaller stone tenant houses, twenty-five log tenant houses, the furnace, one stone coal house, one coal shed, one stone grist mill, one saw mill, one stone barn, stone stables, one stone smith shop, one stone office, one stone smokehouse and one stamping mill.

During the nineteenth century, the furnace declined in relative importance. It did supply the various iron works for many miles around with pig metal, and also had the distinction of furnishing iron for the "Monitor," the Union's first iron-clad ship of the Civil War. Moreover, Warwick produced iron for numerous early steam engines.

In 1795 David Potts moved to Warwick to manage the Furnace. His father was Samuel Potts, the partner of Thomas Rutter, III. Later his son, David Potts, Jr., at the age of 17, took over the management of the Furnace.

In 1835, David Potts, Jr. purchased for $3,500.00 Warwick Farm which was part of the estate of John C. Stocker and his wife, Mary Catherine Rutter, by Summons of Partition instigated by Joanna Potts. Somewhere in the 1850's Thomas May Potts, brother of David Potts, Jr., returned to the French Creek area and settled permanently on Warwick Farm. His brother David added an imposing two and a half story stone addition to the south of the original wings. In his will of 1860, David bequeathed to his brother Thomas, "...the property on which he now lives containing between two and three hundred acres partly in Warwick and partly in East Nantmeal townships".

Thomas and his brother David were influential in both political and business affairs in their vicinity. David's wider scope included election to the House of Representatives for three one-year terms, and six years as a Member of Congress. Thomas spent considerable time in the iron business in the south as Manager for the Potts and Van Leer Furnaces in Tennessee and Virginia. In 1829, he purchased 97 acres in East Nantmeal Township from the Templin and Van Leer families, and on 8 acres of this land he erected a Cupola Furnace and dam about a mile below Warwick Farm, on the south branch of French Creek where patterns and castings of various kinds were produced. Later he helped to develop and manage Jefferson Furnace in Schuylkill County for his brother David.

In February 1878, Warwick Farm was leased to John Scholl of Pughtown. In October 1892, the farm was offered for sale by John T, Potts, Philadelphia, Executor for his mother, Hannaette Potts, and was sold to William N. Sallade. For the first time since the eighteenth century, Warwick Farm left the possession of the Potts and the Rutter families, and became separated from Warwick Furnace.

Happily the two properties have again become united under single ownership.

Returning once more to the Furnace, records show that at the time of the Civil War it was operating at a fraction of its early capacity. A newspaper article of 1862 notes that:

"Mr. Potts...has five hundred tons of pig iron piled up near the furnace, the product of the last blast. Mr. Potts did not increase his supply of charcoal last summer, hence, the blast had to be rather a short one.

With the death of David Potts, Jr., Nathaniel Potts assumed ownership of the property, and by 1863, he was operating the Furnace "full-handed," but only "forty acres of timber will be leveled this season to manufacture charcoal." The Furnace had drawn so heavily on the timber resources of the associated land for so many years, that depletion of wood played an important role in the abandonment of its operation about 1867. Undoubtedly, Warwick was also feeling the effects of the substitution of coal for charcoal.

In 1875, after the death of Nathaniel Potts, his heirs advertised the property for public sale, stressing its value as a farm. Warwick Furnace was now known as Warwick Furnace Farm, a title appropriate to its changed function. In the eighteenth century intensive use of the farmland surrounding the Furnace depleted the soil. Advanced farming techniques were applied to restore fertility. Experiments were made with fertilizers and lime was added to correct soil acidity.

These agricultural experiments, contributing to the science of agronomy, are amongst the reasons for the significance of Warwick Furnace Farm. Other reasons include:

  • the importance of Warwick Furnace as a center of the colonial iron industry
  • the leadership of Robert Grace and the innovative techniques
  • the association of Robert Grace with Benjamin Franklin which led to the production of Franklin stoves at Warwick and a revolution in home heating
  • the association of the Furnace with Washington and his troops after defeat at the Battle of Brandywine
  • the representation of the prosperity and social standing of the ironmasters families as depicted by the architecture and setting of the two manor houses.

Lastly, and by no means least, is the continuance for some two hundred and fifty years of two properties representing the original Nutt tract. To a large extent, these properties have remained under the same family ownership and been preserved without visual damage. It is not only fortunate that Warwick Furnace Farm and Warwick Farm can be presented as a unit, but entirely in order. Together with Warrenpoint, a National Register property on the northern boundary, they constitute the most significant and historic complex in the watersheds of the French and Pickering Creeks.

References

Atlas of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Safe Harbor, Pennsylvania: A. R. Witmer, 1873.

Breou's Original Series of Farm Maps : Chester County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: M. H. Kirk and Co., 1883.

Chester County Court House: Deed Books, Will Books, Court Records.

Chester County Historical Society: Tax Transcripts, Newspapers, Township Papers, Warwick Furnace Ledger C, 1745-60, Warwick Furnace Day Book, other selected documents.

Franklin, Benjamin. Memories, Vol I. Philadelphia: McCarty and Davies, 1834.

Iron Manufacturers of Pennsylvania. Report of a Meeting, 1850.

Pennsylvania Archives, 1776. Vol. V. ed. Samuel Hazard. Philadelphia: Joseph Severns and Co., 1853.

Washington, George. The Writings of George Washington, Vol. I. Ed. Jared Sparks. New York: Harper Brothers, 1847.

Will of Samuel Hutt, Sr., September 25, 1737.

Secondary Acrelius, Israel. A History of New Sweden (1758). Translated in Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (1874).

Chester County Historical Society. Bulletin 1936. Letters of George Washington.

Futhey, J. Smith and Gilbert Cope. History of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts, 1881.

Homan, Wayne E. "Protectors of Preachers," Philadelphia Inquirer. May 23, 1965.

James, Mrs. Thomas Potts. Memorial of Thomas Potts, Jr. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Privately Printed, 1874

Lesley, J. P. The Iron Manufacturer's Guide to Furnaces, Forges, and Rolling Mills. New York, 1839.

MacElree, Wilmer. Along the Western Brandywine. West Chester, 1912.

MacElree, Wilmer. Around the Boundaries of Chester County. West Chester, 1934.

Norris, John V. "Rebecca Savage called Lovely Pioneer Beauty," Daily Republican, April 10, 1969.

Pearse, John B. A Concise History of the Iron Manufacturer of the American Colonies up to the Revolution, and of Pennsylvania until the Present Time. Philadelphia, 1876.

Pennsylvania Society of the Colonial Dames of America. Forges and Furnaces in the Province of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: printed for the Society, 1914.

Pennypacker, Samuel Whitaker. Phoenixville and its Vicinity. Philadelphia: Davis and Pennypacker, 1872.

Raymond, Eleanor. Early Domestic Architecture of Pennsylvania. New York: William Helburn, 1931. Plate #68.

Stoltzful, J. U. Letter, Warwick Farm, Glenmoore, Pa., January 20, 1922.

Swank, James. History of the Manufacture of Iron in All Ages. Philadelphia, 1884.

Thomson, W. W. Chester County and Its People. Chicago, 1898.

Village Record. West Chester, Pa. August 23, 1826. March 18, 1862. June 18, 1864. September 2, 1865.

Walker, Joseph E. Hopewell Village: A Social and Economic History of an Iron-Making Community. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1966. (2nd ed. 1967.)

Wilders, Harry Emerson. Valley Forge. New York: MacMillan, 1938.

  1. Bennett, Margaret; Busenkell, Mary Lloyd; Edmunds, F. Langdon; Morris, Eleanor M.; Murphy, Kelly; and Stoudt, Virginia M., Warwick Furnace-Farms Complex, nomination document, 1976, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Warwick Furnace Farms Map

Street Names
Dampmann Road • Valley Way Drive • Warwick Furnace Road

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