RICES LANDING – A restoration project now underway at the W.A. Young and Sons Foundry and Machine Shop in Rices Landing should help to ensure the historic building is around for another 115 years.
A contractor began work last month on a project that includes restoration of all windows and doors, replacement of damaged wood siding and repairs to the foundation.
“The work is essential to the building’s preservation,” said George “Bly” Blystone, the volunteer caretaker of the shop. “It has needed to be done for years.”
The machine shop was built by William A. Young, a local carpenter and farmer, in 1900 and was expanded in 1908 to include the foundry. The building contains all the original machinery and equipment and is relatively unchanged since the days it served the riverboat, railroad and mining industries.
The shop has been documented by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service and is on the National Register of Historical Places.
Part of the restoration involves repairing the foundation at the front of the foundry. The front wall of that portion of the building was sinking, Blystone said.
“If we didn’t fix it, the front end would eventually fall,” he said. “The sagging actually warped the siding and windows.”
To repair the wall, the contractor, F.J. Busse Co. Inc. of Pittsburgh, first had to remove the siding and then use jacks to lift the wall about three inches, Blystone said. A concrete and block footer was then installed beneath the wall.
One of the foundry’s roof trusses and several roof supports also were replaced, he said. All the windows and doors in the building are original. As part of the project, each window will be removed and taken to a shop in Pittsburgh to be restored.
“Rotten wood (in each window) will have to be replaced,” Blystone said.
Much of the building’s damaged clapboard siding also will have to be replaced.
“They can’t seem to get it off without it breaking,” he said.
As part of the project, wood lettering on the front of the building also will be replaced.
The building is owned by the Steel Industry Heritage Corp., a nonprofit corporation that manages the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Rivers of Steel had received $100,000 in grant money for the project, Blystone said.
About four or five years ago, the organization also replaced the roof, which was much in need of repair, he said.
Blystone, who watches over the shop, still refers to it as one of the most under-appreciated historic sites in the area.
The metal lathes, drill presses, grinders, saws, planers and shapers that fill the machine shop are all original and date from between 1870 and 1920. The machines are run by a system of leather belts and wooden pulleys mounted to the ceiling that was originally powered by a single steam engine and is now run by a gasoline engine.
The foundry, with its dirt floor, still has the original coke-fired furnace, metal ladles and the traveling overhead crane. Wooden patterns that were used to make the cast-iron parts are found scattered throughout the building.
Many of the tools and equipment there were left just as they were when the shop closed in 1966.
The shop is open to the public every Sunday, between noon and 4 p.m. Blystone only asks anyone wanting to visit the shop to call him in advance to make sure he will be there at 724-710-4898.
People do come to see it. Blystone said he had eight people tour the shop last Sunday. A group also recently has been using the machinery to machine parts for a locomotive now being restored for the Youngstown Steel Museum, he said
Blystone, who has devoted much time to the shop, said he wants people to know more about it.
“Where else are you going to find this?” he said while looking over the machine-filled shop floor.