Iron Hill Museum set to reopen
Historic schoolhouse ready again for visitors
Volunteers were hard at work this week putting the finishing touches on a restoration of the historic Iron Hill Museum.
The public will get its first glimpse inside the refurbished one-room schoolhouse during an event on Saturday, and the museum will open for regular hours in May.
“There isn’t an inch of this building that hasn’t been touched,” Robin Broomall, president of the board of directors, said Tuesday as she and museum director Maureen Zieber worked through a snowstorm to get the museum ready for this weekend.
Iron Hill School #112C was built in 1923 as a school for African-American children, one of more than 80 such schools built by businessman and philanthropist Pierre Samuel du Pont. It closed in 1965 as part of the court-ordered desegregation.
The museum opened there three years later and for nearly 50 years invited school groups, summer camps, Scout troops and the general public to view its collection of minerals, arrowheads, taxidermied animals and other artifacts.
Two years ago, the Delaware Academy of Science, which manages the museum, opened the larger, more modern Iron Hill Science Center nearby and moved many of the exhibits there.
Since then, the organization has been restoring the old building to look more like it did when it was a schoolhouse. Several of the original desks and chairs have been refurbished.
“The charm of the original museum was that it is old and was chocked full of neat things to see, touch, and learn about, from fossils, rocks, minerals, antlers, stuffed birds and animals,” Broomall said. “But even charm needs a thorough cleaning and updating once in a while.”
While the science center focuses on natural history, the schoolhouse has been repurposed to show the human side of history on Iron Hill.
The three main areas of focus include the Native American influence in the region; how Irish and Welsh miners were attracted to the area by the geology of Iron Hill; and the one-room schoolhouse and African American culture of Iron Hill.
Iron Hill was home to the Lenni Lenape tribe, which found large deposits of feldspar jasper there that were valuable in making tools and other implements necessary for survival.
European settlers, primarily Welsh and Irish, were also attracted to Iron Hill because of its geology. Inside the hill is a mass of igneous rock called gabbro, which is made up of iron magnesium. They mined the iron ore for nearly 200 years. The open pits are still visible along the wooded trails behind the schoolhouse.
“We want the community to know more about the region and why Iron Hill got its name,” Broomall said. “The whole area has a tremendous history, and most residents in the surrounding developments don’t have a clue about it.”
The Iron Hill Museum is located at 1355 Old Baltimore Pike.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, it will host an event celebrating the Irish community that once lived in the Iron Hill area. The cost is $5, or $3 for members of the Delaware Academy of Science. Space is limited; call 302368-5703 to register.
After Saturday, the newly restored museum will be open by appointment and also during Iron Hill’s annual Archaeology & Heritage Festival on May 6. Starting in May, the museum will be open every Saturday afternoon.
The historic Iron Hill Museum is preparing to reopen after a restoration project.
Museum director Maureen Zieber and board president Robin Broomall pose inside the Iron Hill Museum.