JAHA and Center for Metal Arts team up on tours of the Blacksmith Shop

JAHA and Center for Metal Arts team up on tours of the Blacksmith Shop

Center for Metal Arts (CMA) has been established in Johnstown for almost a year – and now, CMA and the Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA) are inviting the public to see what they do.

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On Dec. 1, five hour-long tours will be offered to showcase CMA’s current operations in the Pattern Shop, and its plans to occupy the historic Blacksmith Shop. The tours, which will be offered at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, and 3:00 pm, will include a metalworking demonstration by CMA’s principals, Patrick Quinn and Dan Neville, and a tour of the Blacksmith Shop’s interior. The tour’s nominal $5 cost will cover ear and eye protection.

Tickets will be sold in advance and at the door. Advance ticket purchase is encouraged, as each tour will be limited to 40 people. Advance tickets can be purchased securely online, or in person at the Heritage Discovery Center or Johnstown Flood Museum.

Founded in 2003, Center for Metal Arts moved their operations from New York state in early 2018. It offers educational programs open to the public, as well as specialized training for professional blacksmiths — it also creates commissioned work, and sponsors residencies.

“Moving to Johnstown was an easy decision for CMA,” said Patrick Quinn, CMA executive director. “Our passion for forging and industrial joinery techniques paired really well with Johnstown’s heritage, and the city is a great place for us to grow our educational forging program.”

CMA estimates that 150 people have attended workshops at their facility since they opened in Johnstown. Many of these workshops take place over several days, meaning that participants spend multiple days here.

“We think the experience that CMA offers visitors can help to attract heritage tourists to the city. People rarely have the opportunity to view industrial forging,” said Richard Burkert, president of JAHA.

Currently, CMA’s operations are located in what was formerly the Pattern Shop, but the organization plans to move to the Blacksmith Shop as soon as is feasible, once reinstallation of utilities – compressed air, electricity, natural gas, and water — can be completed.

It will take time, but equipment in the shop (some of which is in place; other items are in storage) will be refurbished and used, including the shop’s five steam hammers.

Many people think of horseshoes and nails when they think of blacksmiths. By contrast, the Blacksmith Shop, which was built in the 1860s, made large-scale tools and equipment used in other sections of the Cambria/Bethlehem steelworks. Just a handful of men worked there at the time of Bethlehem’s shutdown in 1992, but as many as 100 people worked there daily in two and three shifts during its heyday of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Blacksmith Shop was the subject of an intensive rehabilitation effort undertaken by JAHA and the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2004, JAHA successfully applied for a Save America’s Treasures grant of $292,836 from the National Park Service to stabilize the structure. The handmade brickwork was restored using historically accurate methods – in fact, the mason who worked on it had also done preservation work on the White House. Other improvements included replacement of the roof and stabilization of the cupola, installing drainage, and other items.

Also in 2004, the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, which owns the building, received significant brownfield grant funding from the EPA for the Blacksmith Shop, which was used to install a concrete floor, mitigate environmental issues, and repair historic doors and windows.

But the building was dormant for more than 25 years until Center for Metal Arts’ move, a process that was instigated when CMA’s principal saw a photo of the shop’s interior on JAHA’s social media a few years ago.