Lancaster Conservancy (the Conservancy) and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) have once again partnered to protect and care for a historic natural site in the Hellam Hills. The 21-acre property includes the Ironmaster House adjacent to the Codorus Furnace and is an addition to the Susquehanna Riverlands State Park, established in 2022 through joint efforts of the Conservancy and DCNR.
According to local historians, the Ironmaster House was built in the late 18th or early 19th century. In 1765, a furnace known as the Hellam Hills Iron Works was established on adjacent lands by William Bennet. This furnace is reputed to have produced weapons used during the Revolutionary War. In 1837, the Codorus Furnace was constructed and operated on the site of the previous Hellam Hills Iron Works. The Codorus Furnace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is a beloved landmark in York County. The Conservation Society of York County purchased and protected the Codorus Furnace in 1949, but the adjacent Ironmaster House remained unprotected.
“Preserving this historic property and structure as a living part of history is an incredible step for the Commonwealth,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “Pennsylvania has an important place in the early stages of the birth of this nation and we are proud to share a part of that history with the public through state parks, especially as we approach the 250th anniversary of our nation’s birth. Thank you to Lancaster Conservancy for partnering on this key addition to public lands.”
In January 2023, Lancaster Conservancy acquired the property that includes the Ironmaster House for transfer to the state. In June, Lancaster Conservancy transferred the 21 acres to DCNR. The Ironmaster property is an addition to the Susquehanna Riverlands State Park, which the Lancaster Conservancy previously protected in 2022 before transferring it to DCNR.
“This project required quick action by the Conservancy and ongoing work with DCNR. The result is permanent protection of significant natural and historic resources, protection of over a third of a mile of the Codorus Creek, and expanding connectivity with the new state park. Partnerships are how land protection happens,” said Kate Gonnick, Senior Vice President of Land Protection and General Counsel with the Conservancy.
The Susquehanna Riverlands State Park is within the Conservancy’s Hellam Hills Conservation Area – a critical natural area that stretches from just north of Wrightsville to the Codorus Creek and includes over 2,000 acres of contiguous forests. The conservation area also includes Lancaster Conservancy’s Hellam Hills and Wizard Ranch nature preserves as well as Roundtop, which Lancaster Conservancy recently announced plans to acquire.
“The Conservancy is determined to protect the forested lands of Hellam Hills. We don’t often focus on the historic nature of this beautiful landscape, but it’s so important in telling a more complete story of this region’s history. At this very moment, our stewardship team is restoring forests, wetlands, and the stream corridor at Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve with a goal of creating a hub for education of the natural and cultural history of this region. The Ironmaster House is another key piece of the larger puzzle,” said Fritz Schroeder, President and CEO of the Conservancy.
All these properties in the Hellam Hills are part of the Susquehanna Riverlands Conservation Landscape, a landscape designated by DCNR that consists of lands that fall within the York and Lancaster County municipalities that border the river. These important forests along the Susquehanna River are in an area rich with history and natural resources including waterfalls, glens, and rocky cliffs.
Lancaster Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust that provides wild and forested lands and clean waterways for the community, forever. The organization has protected over 10,000 acres of natural land and manages 50 nature preserves open to the public in Lancaster and York counties. Learn more and donate at lancasterconservancy.org.