Building on the Past:  Bringing 19th Century Innovation to a 20th Century Industrial Park

October 2 – November 13, 2011


Building on the Past outlines the rediscovery of a 19th century iron ore washing operation at Benner Commerce Park. The park, opened in 2010, sits on the former Valentine Iron Ore Washing Plant, which was run by three generations of the Valentine family, from 1887-1898.

The exhibit outlines the arrival of the interrelated Valentine and Thomas families in 1815 to take control of Logan Furnace.  For almost a century they set the standard for ironmaking in Centre County and the country.  Ore washing techniques developed by Abraham S. Valentine in the 1840s are still used worldwide.  The second generation’s Robert Valentine introduced the drilling of artesian wells in the 1860s, the first in the county.  Of the Quaker faith, the Valentines and Thomas had a hand in bringing the standards of modern life – roads, railroads and electricity – to Centre County.

Click theBuildingonthePast button to view the exhibit panels (PDF, 2 mb).

Exhibit panel text provided by Jerilynn Schumacher, design provided by David Lembeck.



The U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Development, one of the funding agencies for Benner Commerce Park, requested that archaeological research be undertaken and educational materials be developed to record the site.  The purpose was to mitigate the loss of this important early industrial location when new development occurred.  Serving as consulting parties, the Centre County Historical Society, Bald Eagle Archaeological Society, and Benner Township, took on the responsibility of developing the educational materials.  The Centre County Industrial Development Corporation (CCIDC) is providing funding support.

This exhibit, in keeping with federal and state legislative requirements reflected in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, represents one of the educational components.  A brochure about the site also has been developed, and the exhibit has been designed so that it can travel to other locations, including the Benner Township Municipal Building and the Centre County Library and Historical Museum.

Educational materials are based on archaeological findings and historic research provided by senior archaeologist and principal investigator for the project, Gary Coppock, Heberling Associates, Inc. 

View the historical background and archaeological findings below, prepared by Heberling Associates, Inc.  (To open the reports, click on the button below.  Then choose ‘download’, then select ‘open’ with Adobe software to read it.)


  • Phase III Archaeological Report & Appendices.  (544 pg, 95mb)
    • Methodology, setting, ironmaking process, Valentine & Thomas family ironworks, Valentine iron ore washing plant, plus appendices with additional data, diagrams, images, maps, references.
    • Click the button, choose “Download” to view, then open with Adobe.

Collaborators in the exhibit’s development were Mary Alice Graetzer, president of the Bald Eagle Archaeological Society; David Breon, chair, Benner Township Supervisor; Kitty Wunderly, curator of the Pennsylvania Room, Centre County Library and Historical Museum, Bellefonte; Sue Hannegan, assistant director, Centre County Planning and Community Development Office; and Centre County Historical Society’s Heritage Preservation Committee members Bob Donaldson, Bob Hazelton, Jackie Melander, Mary Sorensen, and Steve Walton.

Exhibit text provided by Jerilynn Schumacher.
Exhibit design provided by David Lembeck.