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Built circa 1864 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the blacksmith shop is the heart of the Cambria Iron National Historic Landmark, one of the oldest surviving complexes from the 19th century steel industry. The city of Johnstown is currently restoring the shop with the goal of signing a lease with a business that will resume forging operations, and allow visitors to witness the metalworking tradition that shaped the region. When completed, the shop will be a vital part of the area's culture and a national center for blacksmithing.

History of the Blacksmith Shop

The Cambria Iron Company Blacksmith shop was built in 1864 to supply parts to the company's iron and steel mills. Cambria Iron was an important steel industry innovator during the second half of the 18th century and was one of the nation's largest rail producers. The company boosted Johnstown's population from about 5,150 in the 1850s to around 30,000 in the 1890s. Johnstown is most famous for the flood of 1889, which nearly destroyed the city and killed over 2,000 people. Though a large number of the mill workers died in the flood, the buildings in the Lower Works sustained remarkably little damage. The Cambria Iron Company was renamed the Cambria Steel Company in 1898, and was bought by The Midvale Steel and Ordinance Company in 1916. The company changed hands once again in 1923, being sold to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

In 1989, the National Park Service declared the Cambria Iron Works a National Historic Landmark. It is one of two sites in the country with the most intact buildings from the nation's early steel industry. Bethlehem Steel continued to operate the Blacksmith shop until 1992, when they shut down all operations in Johnstown.

Bethlehem Steel then began demolishing many of the buildings in the complex. Local agencies banded together to preserve the site, and after lengthy negotiations, Bethlehem transferred ownership of the Iron Works' most historically significant buildings to the city of Johnstown.




  • 1864 -- The Cambria Iron Works builds the Blacksmith Shop to supply parts to the iron and steel mills in Johnstown. They quickly become the nation's largest producers of rail.

  • 1889 -- The South Fork Dam collapses, releasing the waters of Lake Conemaugh downstream to Johnstown. The infamous Johnstown Flood kills 2,209 people and destroys most of the city.

  • 1923 -- Bethlehem Steel buys most of the remaining Cambria Iron Complex and continues with operations, making several additions to the Blacksmith Shop building.

  • 1989 -- The National Park Service classifies the Cambria Iron Works a National Historic Landmark. The site is one of two in the nation with the most intact buildings from 19th-century steel mills. The oldest of these buildings is the Blacksmith Shop.

  • 1992 -- Bethlehem Steel shuts down their operations in Johnstown. In the years to come, they begin to demolish 19th-century buildings for economic reasons.

  • 2001 -- Several local agencies receive three of the oldest buildings still standing in the Bethlehem Steel complex. The most important of these is the Blacksmith Shop.

  • 2006 -- Efforts are ongoing to preserve the Blacksmith Shop through reconstruction, environmental remediation, and facilitation. The overall goal is to allow visitors inside an active shop in the near future.