(This article appeared in the Winter 2000 issue of Anvil's Ring magazine. Story by David Allen; B/W photos by Mike Lubich.
100 YEARS OLD BUT YOUNG AT HEART
Step back in time to the turn of another century and you'll find yourself walking through the doors of W. A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop. And you'll feel and hear the work being done just as it was in 1900 when Wm. A. Young built his shop on the banks of the Monongahela River at Rice's Landing, PA. When his descendents closed the business in 1965, they left the machinery as it stood, preferring to leave it in place rather than auction it. That gesture, today, is a true gift to us all as we can experience how this century-old machine shop and foundry operated. It is literally intact with machinery and tools dating to 1870.
The Appalachian Blacksmiths Assn. and Pittsburgh Area Artist Blacksmiths Assn. have held a joint hammer-in at Young's for over a decade. Members of the two groups have also helped restore the foundry's blacksmith shop. Beginning in 1996, we dedicated our auction receipts to the Friends of the Foundry to help them match a challenge grant from the Steel Industry Heritage Foundation. The Friends were successful in their quest; a feat made partly possible by the Smithsonian Institute's Curator emeritus announcing that Young's Foundry is "the greatest find of its type in the nation."
Our auction proceeds, as well as the visitors we've drawn, have increased steadily since that proclamation. In 1999, we raised over $1,500 and felt as if we'd reached the jumping off point for an annual event that would not only be a great fund-raiser but an educational symposium as well. Bob Rupert, PAABA President, said, "I never expected we'd raise more than $500-600 with our auction. But this has become an event that's going to grow even more." The reason for our success has to be the ABA's & PAABA's talented members who have freely performed demonstrations and donated ironwork. ABANA past president Joe Harris, for one, took his turn with Bob Elliott and Dan Easley in the forge last year.
In 2000, the ABA and PAABA will not only continue their blacksmithing demonstrations but we will also start up the belt line and operate the lathes and milling machines in the shop. And if all goes to plan, we hope to make an iron pour in the foundry in 2001.
For many years, the shop's gentlemanly neighbor, Olan West, looked after the building and equipment, trying his best to keep the forces of nature from destroying them. His friendship to blacksmiths and his vigilance are irreplaceable. Perhaps his passing gave all of us a mission-a mission to preserve the legacy of Mr. Young's blacksmiths and metalworkers.
Preserving the building and its equipment is one thing. Preserving the art is another. Recently, Waynesburg College offered introductory blacksmithing classes and area blacksmiths Mike Lubich, Jan Loney, and Mike Kennedy served as instructors. Additionally, Mike Lubich has performed demonstrations for local Boy Scout troops. The efforts of Jim Campbell (Touchstone Crafts Center) should be praised as well for he was instrumental in beginning the preservation drive.
Young's Foundry is located in southwest Pennsylvania, the heart of coal and steel country. Though the sternwheelers that docked at Rice's Landing for repair are gone, you'll still see modern tugboats pushing barges of coal north to Pittsburgh and the Ohio River. W. A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop has captured the hearts of all of us who have visited there just as it will capture yours.
Be sure to visit Young's Foundry on the Internet -- http://www.co.greene.pa.us/secured/gc2/history/foundry/foundry.htm
Rivers of Steel Foundation is overseeing the restoration of Young's shop
Below: The steam-powered sternwheeler ALICIA at Rice's Landing. Young's machine shop serviced
steamboats that pushed coal barges on the Monongahela River in the early 1900s.
Alicia photo added in 2009; source Univ. of Cincinnati archives.