Giving an underappreciated site its due

February 28, 2016
Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Exterior of the Observer-Reporter building in Washington.

We agree with George “Bly” Blystone when he says the W.A. Young and Sons Foundry and Machine Shop in Rices Landing is one of the most underappreciated historic sites in the area.

The 115-year-old clapboard building is filled with metal lathes, drill presses, grinders, saws and milling machines, some dating back to the 1870s, all run by a working system of leather belts and wooden pulleys driven by a single engine.

A survey conducted in 1992 for the Historic American Engineering Record by the National Park Service called the shop “a pristine example” of a 20th century machine shop.

Its tools, clientele and operations show influences of both a blacksmith’s shop and modern machine shop, the study said. “[T]his shop represents a transition between the village blacksmith of the 18th and 19th centuries and the large machine shop of the 20th.”

It’s amazing to behold and should be seen by anyone interested in the shops that made and repaired the machinery for the early riverboat, railroad and mining industries

The building’s owner, the Steel Industry Heritage Corp., a nonprofit organization that manages the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, recently began a $100,000 project to preserve the building, restoring windows and doors, replacing siding and repairing the foundation.

We’re glad to see the corporation is doing what it can to make sure the shop exists for future generations.

The building, however, remains open to the public only one day a week, thanks to Blystone, the shop’s unpaid volunteer caretaker. Many volunteers, we should note, deserve credit for having kept the shop intact over the years.

Before the corporation took ownership of the site in 2009, the building was owned by Greene County Historical Society. It was society volunteers who made the initial repairs and did the work necessary to allow the building to first be opened to the public.

The society only gave the building up because it was unable to raise enough money to more fully restore and maintain it.

We are heartened to see investments are being made in this historic building. We only hope sometime in the future it doesn’t have to rely solely on volunteers to keep it open to the public and perhaps can expand its hours, especially during the summer, to attract more visitors.

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