About W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop and Foundry, in Greene County, Pennsylvania
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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.
By: David G. Allen, for the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association. This article first appeared in Anvil's Ring, Winter 2000 issue. Alicia photo added in 2009; source Univ. of Cincinnati archives.
W.A. Young & Sons Foundry & Machine Shop Water Street Rices Landing, PA 15357
The W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop & Foundry is a century-old, belt-driven machine shop and foundry featuring 25 fully operational machines. The site is managed by Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Tours may be arranged by calling Rivers of Steel at 412-423-8687. The Foundry is located on Water Street in Rices Landing, Pennsylvania, and is open for pre-arranged tours.
"IT's a TREASURE... " (Source of much of the following information: Appalachian Blacksmits Association)
Young's Foundry is located the heart of coal and steel country of southwest Pennsylvania. 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 those who have visited there.
In 1900 when Wm. A. Young built his shop on the banks of the Monongahela River at Rice's Landing, PA. The foundry was locked and neglected for 20 years, when the Greene County Historical Society purchased it and began restorations and repair. When Young's 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 Association and Pittsburgh Area Artist Blacksmiths Association 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".
Preserving the building and its equipment is one thing. Preserving the art is another. Recently, Waynesburg University 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.
Hammer-In an annual April event
April 19, 2014 Come to Rices Landing and enjoy the days of the past! This unique event, beginning at 9 a.m., brings blacksmiths together for a day of demonstrations. Also available will be tours of the foundry and an auction, which will start at 1 p.m. The public is welcome. Lunch will be available, and admission is free! All proceeds benefit the W.A. Young Foundry, the Pittsburgh Area Artist-Blacksmiths Association (PAABA) and the Appalachian Blacksmith Association (ABA). FMI, call George Blystone at 724-710-4898 or the PAABA at 724-774-6757, or visit www.paaba.net.
The 2012 Hammer-In event included a welcoming/restoration ceremony acknowledging the completion of phase one of the historic restoration of the machine shop. The project included a roof replacement and other structural and safety upgrades, was financed in part with a save America's Treasures grant, as well as support from the state.
The machines are powered by an intricate system of leather belts and wooden pulleys mounted to the ceiling that were originally operated by a single steam engine and now are run by a gasoline engine. The foundry section of the building includes the original coke furnace and metal ladles.
Wooden forms that were once used to make the molds, including a large form believed to have been created for a gear on a river lock, still sit as they were left many years earlier.
Rice's Landing annual Hammer-In with the Appalachian Blacksmiths and Pittsburgh Area Artists-Blacksmiths have carried on a long tradition of raising funds (2008/$1000 & 2009/$1006) for the preservation of W. A. Young and Sons Machine Shop & Foundry at Rice’s Landing, PA. In early 2009, the ownership of the maching shop shifted from the historical society to the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.
About $250,000 in state and federal grant money can be used for additional restoration work at the site. The work that will be done with the money includes repairing the roof and windows, doing drainage work to prevent damage to the foundation and completing a general cleanup of the building's interior.
Today, the machine shop/foundry looks much like it did the day the doors locked when the foundry closed in 1969. In one room, visitors can see where a gas light hangs next to an electric light, a visible example of the transfer of power from gas to electricity.
At one time, Rices Landing was a hub for commercial distribution, and nearby coal mines were a primary employer. Later, when automobiles arrived on the scene, the foundry provided auto repair.
Routes to Roots: (Source: http://www.riversofsteel.com/routestoroots/ )
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