Foundry’s designation important for Greene

January 22, 2017
Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Exterior of the Observer-Reporter building in Washington.

Rices Landing’s little secret – known mostly to blacksmiths and history buffs – is a secret no more.

The historic W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop nestled in the tiny Greene County borough along the Monongahela River became even more venerated earlier this month when the U.S. Department of the Interior designated it a National Historic Landmark.

The machine shop, built by local carpenter and farmer William A. Young in 1900, still contains all of the original machinery, leather belts and wooden pulleys that have made it a fascinating place to anyone who visits the shop.

The shop on Water Street once was used to repair riverboats and coal-mining equipment, among other machinery.

It closed in the late 1960s, however, and has gone through rough times.

The Greene County Historical Society purchased it in 1985 but was unable to raise enough money or secure the grants needed to restore the building. It transferred ownership of the property to Rivers of Steel Industry Heritage Corp. in 2009.

Since then, the organization has worked to make building improvements. Meanwhile, the Hammer-In event, started 31 years ago after the historical society purchased the building, has been a popular attraction that highlights blacksmiths showcasing their trade.

But the Jan. 11 designation puts the foundry on a different level.

The shop has received other awards, but Rivers of Steel President and CEO August Carlino called this one “the pinnacle of designations.”

Indeed, it is, since the landmark designation is the highest form of federal recognition that can be awarded to a site.

There are about 2,500 such historic landmarks in the country, including 167 in Pennsylvania, according to the National Parks Service.

What’s most amazing, however, is that it’s the first National Historic Landmark in Greene County.

In comparison, Washington County has four such landmarks: the Meadowcroft Rockshelter near Avella, Acheson House in Monongahela and the David Bradford House and LeMoyne House in Washington.

While the designation itself probably won’t immediately attract visitors to Rices Landing, it lends credence to the work by Rivers of Steel and the foundry’s caregivers. This is now an opportunity to build on the progress the organization has made as it continues to renovate the building’s façade and improve the experience for visitors.

In effect, the designation not only legitimizes those improvements being made, but makes them even more important than ever.

As the renovations continue and others learn about the historical significance of the foundry, it will allow Rices Landing to become a destination for more than just history buffs as visitors learn about the amazing recreation options – from bicycling to boating – in this little borough along the river.

Until then, there might be a little more spark in that fire when the blacksmiths return in April for the 32nd annual Hammer-In.

The craftsmen and guests who have known for years the importance of this little machine shop along the Mon River might have more company soon.

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