Saving Sarah Furnace: Sheetz to preserve important part of Claysburg area history
Aug 27, 2023
The 1832 Shoenberger Mansion and historic barn on the Sarah Furnace property near Sproul will be renovated by Sheetz. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
SPROUL — Sheetz is taking steps to preserve an important part of Claysburg area history.
The company plans to renovate the historic buildings on the Sarah Furnace property at the intersection of Dunnings Highway and Quarry Road in Sproul.
Many of the buildings, which were originally used for an iron-making operation, are about 190 years old.
“We have been waiting for years for someone to do renovations to the Sarah Furnace property, and Sheetz is actually going to do it now. It is a very large undertaking, and only a great company like Sheetz has that financial capability,” said Rich Allison, historian and founder of Claysburg PAST History group and one of the founders of Claysburg Education Foundation. “It was the very first industrial site in the township employing people other than farming. The iron-making operations of central Pennsylvania all were highly successful in the early 1800s until the beginning of the steel industry around the 1850s. We are so grateful that this property will be saved and renovated.”
“As a company, we have always kept an eye on the Sarah Furnace property. It’s such a historic and important landmark for our area that happens to be located in close proximity to our campus in Claysburg. We want to ensure that through our renovations the significance of this property is not lost upon the people of the Claysburg area,” said Sheetz spokesman Nick Ruffner.
Sheetz plans to renovate the historic buildings on the Sarah Furnace property at the intersection of Dunnings Highway and Quarry Road in Sproul. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Sheetz’s initial plans include the 1832 Shoenberger Mansion and a historic barn located on the property. The company purchased the property from Harbison Walker International in 2020.
In 1832, Dr. Peter Shoenberger, who was the iron-making king of Pennsylvania and possibly the United States at the time, built an iron-making furnace near Sproul, on the road that now leads to the Sheetz complex at the Walter Industrial Park.
Sarah Furnace closed in 1881 and was dismantled, Allison said.
Shoenberger also built the mansion located at the corner of Dunnings Highway and Quarry Road. Throughout the 21-room mansion were fireplaces made with black marble imported from Greece — a showcase of a mansion at the time. A kiln was constructed in the yard to manufacture the bricks for the house since transporting them would have been very difficult at the time.
The barn was built to house 54 mules for transporting iron ore from Ore Hill to Sproul, Allison said.
Sheetz’s initial plans for the Sarah Furnace property in Sproul call for renovating the 1832 Shoenberger Mansion and historic barn. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Doug Hileman and his family were the last to live in the mansion, moving out in 2016 when he retired.
“I lived there for 39 years until I retired. I called Sheetz and told them, ‘You better buy it.’ It was a great building. My kids grew up there. It was a beautiful home with so much history. After Harbison Walker bought it, it was not maintained as well as it should have been,” said Hileman, who was plant manager at Sproul. “I am tickled to death with what Sheetz is doing. I told them I would help them in any way I could.”
Sheetz eventually plans to renovate all of the buildings located on the Sarah Furnace property, including the Ironmaster’s House, located adjacent to the Shoenberger Mansion, along with other adjacent buildings, Ruffner said.
“These buildings have many stories to tell from a historical standpoint. Dr. Shoenberger and the site certainly has a lot of history, but we’re so grateful that Sheetz is preserving that history,” Allison said.
Architectural work for the project is being handled by Matthew Millan Architects Inc., a firm with a long history of conducting restorations on historic buildings.
Permitting at the Sarah Furnace site is expected to start this summer, with building design wrapping up in fall 2023. Construction work is expected to begin in late spring 2024, Ruffner said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.
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