Historic Poole Forge is a 26-acre site with a preserved historic Ironmaster’s mansion, children’s playground, picnic pavilion, ball field, Nature Trail, Riparian Buffers, wildflower meadows, many beautiful gardens and a covered bridge along the Conestoga River in Eastern Lancaster County. We currently host a wide range of free public events, recreational and educational experiences. We restored our 1770’s Ironmaster’s mansion that serves as a heritage/community center and also a venue for private and public celebrations. We have also expanded our environmental and educational programs and opportunities for both children and adults while continuing our preservation of the Conestoga Creek, historic iron forge and grounds.
Historic Poole Forge is a non-profit, run by a board of directors and an Executive Director. Our 2023 Board is:
Elizabeth Osborne – President
Brad Basehore – Vice President
Jeff Buckwalter – Treasurer
Deb Martin – Secretary
Susan and Sid Gehman
Dr. Robert Owens
Amanda Lynn Richardson
Dr. Dawn Rise Ekdahl – Executive Director
The origins of this beautiful property date back to the earliest days of our nation. Poole Forge was part of the flourishing iron industry in Lancaster and surrounding counties. As relations with England strained and finally broke, an iron industry of our own was key to the survival of the young country.
James Old, a Welshman, purchased the property in 1775. An experienced iron master, he saw the potential in this land along the Conestoga River, establishing and operating a forge here for twenty years. The pig iron was obtained from nearby furnaces: Hopewell, Joanna, Elizabeth, and Cornwall. Poole Forge refined the iron, then sold it to blacksmiths, or sent it to markets in Philadelphia, where it was used to make armaments for the Revolutionary War. In 1795, he sold the forge to his son, Davis Old, and over the next half century, it continued operating through many changes of hands.
In 1852, with the iron industry fading, the days of the iron plantation came to a close. Buildings remaining from those early days include the ironmaster’s mansion, the paymaster’s house, and two tenant houses. The covered bridge was built in 1859.
In 2017, we celebrated the completion of the renovation of the 1770’s Ironmaster’s Mansion that has been conducted in numerous stages since the project began in 2010. On the exterior, the roof and windows were replaced, exterior lighting was added, the entire mansion was repointed with the appropriate lime and sand mortar, patios, retaining walls, and walkways were repaired and replaced and a new ADA walkway and railings were installed.
Inside the mansion, new plumbing and electrical lines were added and upgraded, a new kitchen was installed, the original 1770’s kitchen with fireplace was restored, air conditioning units and an ADA bathroom were added to the ground floor.
The second floor rooms have all been plastered and repainted, with floors refinished and a bridal room created in former master bedroom. The mansion now hosts many comfortable community events – an Antique Quilt Show, a Christmas Show, a Mother’s Day and a Harvest Tea, Local Art Exhibitions, and this October will host the Longvic France delegation visiting for the New Holland Twin City 50th Anniversary Celebration.
The mansion, situated amongst the park’s lovely gardens and adjacent to the Covered Bridge over the Conestoga River is also available to rent by the public for weddings, bridal and baby showers, rehearsal dinners and business luncheons.
On the national scene in 1858, Minnesota had joined the Union, James Buchanan was president, and Abraham Lincoln had debated and lost the senatorial race to Stephen A. Douglas. Less than three years later, on March 4, 1861, Lincoln took the oath of office as our Commander in Chief.
In Lancaster County’s Caernarvon Township in April 1858, sixty-two citizens signed a petition requesting that Lancaster County build a bridge over the Conestoga Creek (now known as the Conestoga River) near Poole Forge. One of the signers of the petition was Isaac O. Blight, who had been the owner of Poole Forge since 1854. He lived in the mansion with his wife Matilda and their son, William. A daughter, Matilda, was born in 1859. They employed two domestics, Catherine and Sarah Grish.
In April 1858, the Court of Quarter Sessions of Lancaster County appointed Henry Roland, Solomon Diller, and Henry Yundt to view the location proposed for a bridge where the “Downingtown and Ephrata Turnpike crosses the Conestoga Creek at Poole Forge in Caernarvon Township in Lancaster County.” The court required that “public notice of the time and place of the meeting of the viewers be given by advertisements put up in three or more of the most public places in the vicinity at least ten days before the meeting; — and by a Rule of the Court, the proof of the notice shall be in writing.”
On June 8, 1858, Justice of the Peace Levi Ringwait and Hanson B. Jacob signed an affirmation for the proposal for the erection of a bridge. The affirmation stated that four notices had been posted at Ringwait’s store, Hollinger’s Blacksmith Shop in Beartown, and in Churchtown “at least twelve days” before the time of a meeting for all persons interested in the erection of a bridge. The meeting was scheduled for 9 o’clock a.m., June 10, 1858, when all persons interested in the erection of a bridge could attend, “if they see proper.”
The three viewers, Roland, Diller, and Yundt, recommended that “in view of the danger of fire from sparks from said forge, said bridge be made without a roof,” and that the location of the bridge be eighty-nine feet from the south corner of the Poole Forge Coal House.
On May 16, 1859, Levi Fink signed a contract to build the bridge for “twelve hundred nineteen dollars.”
On August 23, Levi Fink wrote to the Court of Quarter Sessions requesting that he had lately erected by contract with the County Commissioners a bridge over the Conestoga Creek near Poole Forge in Caernarvon Township. He “prays the board to appoint proper persons to view and inspect it, and make report of their proceedings to this court.”
The Court appointed three men—Andrew Robinson, David Styer, and Henry Voneida, to view and inspect the erection of Poole Forge Bridge and report their findings to the Court. If any two of the men agree that the bridge is erected in all things in accordance to law, they are to give notice to one or more of the commissioners, or a copy of such notice at the dwelling house of one of the commissioners. The three men appointed by the state planned to build “a modern bridge at a spot near the Poole Forge Bridge and change the location of a portion of the road.”
In August 1980, the Poole Forge Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places along with its legal description in the Lancaster County Courthouse, North Duke Street, Lancaster, and its survey listed in the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg, PA:
The UTM: Zone 18
Owner: Lancaster County/Caernarvon Township
Stream: Conestoga Creek
Truss Type: Burr
Builder: Levi Fink
End Post to End Post Length: 99 feet
Width: 15 feet
Distinguishing Features: The Poole Forge Bridge is located just off of T773, carrying only foot traffic as the bridge has been bypassed. Its vertical plank siding reaches three quarters of the way up the side walls, leaving an open window area under the eaves of its gabled roof.
In 2005, the bridge became the property of Caernarvon Township to be included in a park managed by Historic Poole Forge, Inc. Several floorboards were replaced and electric sensor lights installed. The stone abutments were reinforced in August, 2007. The Theodore Burr Society has been decorating the bridge with Christmas wreaths and colored lights each December since 2006.
Park and Playground Rules
- Park grounds are open from dawn till dusk.
- Alcohol and drug use are strictly forbidden.
- Swimming, boating or tubing are prohibited.
- Walk or wade in the river at your own risk.
- Follow “Carry-In Carry-Out” trash program as posted.
- Parking for park visitors only. No overnight parking of cars, trucks or RVs. Any vehicles parked overnight will be towed.
- No playing on, or around, the covered bridge.
- Use designated charcoal grills throughout the park. No open fires.
- No firearms, bows and arrows, air or spring rifles, or sling shots.
- All pets must be leashed and owners must remove all pet waste.
- Snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, mini-bikes and go carts are prohibited.
- No rollerblades or skateboards.
- Public nuisance is prohibited.
- Motor vehicles, horse-drawn vehicles, and bicycles permitted in designated areas only.
- No truck traffic allowed on covered bridge.
- Do not break, cut, or damage any flowers, trees, or shrubs.
- No digging and/or removing objects from the park.
- Permission required from Historic Poole Forge Inc. for placement of any objects or signs in the park.
- Please respect the natural beauty of the park and enjoy your stay at beautiful Historic Poole Forge!
This playground is the result of many long hours and dedicated effort by neighbors and community members. Please respect the rules and help us preserve this cherished park.
- Playground open from dawn to dusk.
- Children should not use the play area without adult supervision.
- Play at your own risk.
- Alcohol and drug use are prohibited.
- No loitering, vandalism, disorderly conduct, or foul language.
- Smoking prohibited in playground area.
- Do not use when wet.
- Only use playground equipment for its intended purpose.
- No pets allowed on playground.
- Place all litter in trash cans.
- No running, pushing or shoving.
- Do not throw mulch.
Covered Bridge Cottage
The Covered Bridge Cottage will soon be available for overnight rental. Please email email@example.com or call 484 797-5302 for inquiries.
We’re happy to permit photography at the park, but we request that you carefully follow these guidelines. Thank you!
- Reservations or permits for photography are not required. However, park grounds may be closed for special events. Please check the events page of this site or see our bulletin boards in the park before making plans, and call our office at (484) 797-5302 to confirm availability, or if you have any questions.
- Please make a donation to our campaign to keep the park looking wonderful! Consider it a vote of support saying how much you appreciate the hard work of our volunteers. Donations per photo op would be appreciated, or better yet, become a business member of HPF and enjoy the “perks.”
- Do not block roads, especially the covered bridge entrance and exit, as it can be a busy road!
- Park in designated parking areas only, not on grass, tree roots, flower beds, etc.
- Enjoy the beauty of our flower beds, but please be careful not to damage flowers and plants.
- Please leave the park as you found it by taking all items with you when you leave.
- Be courteous to other park-goers and photographers, since the park can be very busy, especially during the “golden hours” for photography.
- Respect the historic integrity of the property and equipment—do not move items in the park to use as props.
- Follow park rules as posted on all bulletin boards and on this website.