The Berks-Mont News (

Christmas at Joanna - a three night 19th century Christmas family destination

Friday, November 9, 2012

Morgantown, PA - December is always a special time of year with the Christmas at Joanna event happening at Historic Joanna Furnace. Families will experience this festive event, 5 to 9 p.m. on the evenings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 30 to December 2. Here, young and old alike relive the spirit of Christmas in those uncertain, early Civil War years.
Mark Zerr, Hay Creek Valley Historical Association Executive Director, stated, “Our Christmas at Joanna Furnace Event is quite a popular holiday destination. Whether families come for unique holiday shopping, wonderful holiday treats, experiencing the candle lit 200 year old furnace complex, caroling, bonfires or even having the kids meet the Belsnickel . . . everyone is enthralled by the transformation of Joanna Furnace into a 19th century holiday experience”.
2012 marks one hundred and fifty years since the onset of the Civil War unleashed a new spirit of individuals and families. It was in 1862, L. Heber Smith, son of Levi B Smith, the Joanna Furnace Ironmaster, organized and recruited local young men to join his military unit, Company A, 128th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry. This new spirit set the tone for several Christmas seasons yet to come at Joanna Furnace. Many uncertainties were on the horizon. Nevertheless, its Christmas time and the Joanna Furnace families have no better time to celebrate than this most joyous Holiday season.
The Joanna Furnace Mule Stable has been transformed into the dining room in the 150-year old home of Iron Master Levi Bull Smith, his wife Emily and their family. As visitors enter through the warm glowing dining room, the pleasant aroma of the freshly cut cedar Christmas tree is a welcoming sensation.
In the dining room, Smith family members gather to prepare for a bittersweet family Christmas celebration during this uncertain time of the winter of 1862. Visitors can simply watch the family doing their holiday preparations or interact with family members to learn more about life in the iron furnace community during the trying times of the early Civil War years.
Outside, in front of the stage, the largest of the roaring bonfires becomes the focal point of the furnace community. Here all can warm up by the fire and join in the singing of traditional Christmas Carols led by the Joanna Carolers. Everyone is encouraged to join in singing. Near the holiday bonfire, from time to time, the Belsnickel has been known to appear and delight visiting children.
Candle light illuminates the entire furnace complex. The historic site takes on an entirely new glow. More than one thousand glowing luminaries warmly light various furnace walkways. Visitors are encouraged to explore the furnace complex by following these clearly defined pathways.
Traditional wagon rides give visitors an alternative way to explore Joanna Furnace. Rides are $2 per person and occur weather permitting. Joanna Furnace historians offer free narrated “Lantern Light Walking Tours” giving the background story of the historic iron furnace. These free on-going tours begin near the small bonfire in the Christmas Craft Market starting at 6 pm.
Inside the Blacksmith Shop, a working blacksmith demonstrates his craft. Visitors can enter the Christmas Gift Basket Raffle. These baskets contain valuable items and certificates. All the baskets together contain over $2,000 worth of gifts and certificates donated by the area business community.
The Christmas Craft Market provides a showcase for visitors to shop for holiday gifts and home decorating items. Selected items available for purchase from the handpicked vendors include baked goods, fruit and fudge; Redware Pottery; Lockbox Jewelry Boxes; pressed flower ornaments and assorted holiday items; Hand woven items; walking sticks; hand painted wood Items; hand turned wooden gifts; Hand painted wildlife ornaments; hand knit scarves and beaded jewelry; yarn and fiber Alpaca Accessories; antique bobbins, and wooden snowmen & Santas.
New this year in the Mechanical Technology area, visitors will be able to explore the Christmas Light Maze. Here, thousands of Christmas lights create a sparkling maze for children of all ages to explore.
The Living Rock Church of Elverson presents a Live Nativity complete with wise men and animals. On display in the Mechanical Technology Building, visitors can observe the array of operating early machinery.
Joanna Furnace is located three miles north of Morgantown off Route 10. Look for signs and enter by turning on Furnace Road. Parking is available on site and along Furnace Road. Increased parking has been added this year. A new safely lighted, easily accessible parking area has been added along Furnace Road. For the safety of visitors, all are encouraged to avoid parking along route 10. Adult admission is $5, children 12 and under are admitted FREE.
The Hay Creek Valley Historical Association is a non-profit organization. Net event proceeds support the research and restoration of this significant 18th & 19th century charcoal-fueled iron furnace community. For additional details visit , find Joanna Furnace on Facebook or call 610-286-0388.