Unlike today's corporations with their large buildings and complex hierarchies, the 19th century iron industry at Joanna Furnace was the product of rugged individualism. Joanna was a cold blast, single stack, charcoal iron furnace most of her life. Water powered until the mid 1850's, Joanna used steam power after that. At the 1898 death of the ironmaster, L. Heber Smith, the furnace was never again operated.
In 1979 Bethlehem Mines donated the site to the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association. With its structures deteriorated by weather and lack of use, almost totally obscured by a tangle of weeds, vines and young trees, the job of restoring the site and structures to the time of Joanna's industrial prominence seemed formidable at best -- but not impossible.
Local folks with an interest in history had journeyed to the site numerous times over the years, some with picnic baskets in hand, others simply exploring and caught up in the imagination of the past.
Nearby in Geigertown, a few families came together in 1976 with a simple desire to showcase the rich history of the region and preserve the crafts of the past. They planned their first festival at the local fire company.
Today, Joanna Furnace is being rediscovered. Thousands of visitors have attended festivals over the past thirty years, toured the historic buildings and absorbed the rich history of the site, leaving with a better understanding of what some have called ‘the Jewel of Southern Berks.’
Living History Presentations of varied topics, crafts or artifacts will be presented, and historic buildings are, the third Saturday during the months of April-October.
Breakfast at Joanna, 7-11 a.m. is served the third Saturday of the month January to December. $6.50 Adults, $3.50 Children age 6 to 11, Under age 6 free. This iron furnace plantation breakfast buffet is a wonderful way to begin your Saturday morning. All you care to eat.
Historic Joanna Furnace is located in Berks County, Pennsylvania along Route 10 about 2.5 miles north of exit 22 (Morgantown) of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.