By Danielle Taylor
Clarion has become well known throughout Pennsylvania for its annual award-winning Autumn Leaf Festival, known for the Tournament of Leaves Parade and huge farmers’ and crafters’ day, and the “Traveler’s Oasis” found at Interstate 80’s Exit 62.
If that’s all you know about this county and town, though, you’re missing out on a lot. The area has a rich history full of interesting sites and stories, one of which is the intriguing Helen Furnace.
Located in Highland Township a between Clarion and Cook Forest State Park on Route 1005, Helen Furnace was originally named “Highland Furnace” in honor of the landowner Alexander McNaughton’s Scottish homeland, but local residents misunderstood his accent and began pronouncing both the township and furnace’s names as “Helen.”
During the mid-1800s, Clarion County became known as “Iron County” for its generous output of the high-demand metal, and this furnace was one of many in the area that converted raw iron ore into usable building material for ships, trains, structures, road vehicles, machine components, and more.
The 32-foot-tall cold-blast furnace was built in 1845 and ceased production in 1857, but while it was in use, it could produce more than 1,000 tons of iron in a year. As time passed, the structure fell into disrepair, but renewed interest in the 1970s led to its reconstruction, and further repairs came after damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Today, visitors can touch and peek inside this relic from a bygone era, and the surrounding park offers a nice place for picnicking.
Find more interesting places to visit online at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197.