RICES LANDING – The sound of hammers ringing against hot metal is a sure sign of spring in Rices Landing.
W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop on Water Street in the borough opens its doors Saturday morning for the 30th annual Hammer-In Festival, a free-to-the-public day of blacksmith demonstrations, truckloads of tools to buy or trade, an auction of artisan-forged items and, new for this year, an aluminum pour, courtesy of the Rivers of Steel.
Last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the shop a National Historic Landmark, the only surviving functional foundry of its kind. Its big forge and rooms of belt driven machinery represents the evolution of 20th century industry, from blacksmith shops to machine production.
Members of the Pittsburgh Area Artist Blacksmith Association and the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association of West Virginia will fire up the forge to demonstrate the skills it takes to turn steel into hooks, utensils and works of art. The public is invited to come see what smithies have been doing for centuries.
The Hammer-In has its share of loyal followers who love to watch history come alive. The foundry opened in 1900 and made everything from gears and gates to brooms, along with milling and repairing the driving gears of riverboats on the nearby Monongahela River. The machines, some which date to the 1870s, offer a rare glimpse of this region’s early industrial days. When it closed in 1966, everything was left behind, even that day’s newspaper on the table.
On Saturday, those who walk among the machines will watch in awe as the old engine fires up and dozens of belts dangling in air begin to move. This is what once turned the shafts of every lathe, grinder and cutter on the floor. A careful traipse up the blackened wooden stairs, past the sign that reads “No Boys Allowed” leads to the loft where the finely forged metal art that PAABA and ABA members are on display. All that is missing is the din of the machinery that would have been operating back in the day when this really was the busiest machine shop in town.
There’s more than one way to get to the Hammer-In. A two-mile section of the Greene River Trail runs from Greene Cove near Clarksville to Rices Landing. Boaters can also dock in the historic Rices Landing and walk to Water Street. Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area has stewardship of the foundry and is the sponsor of this year’s event.
The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a welcome ceremony at noon, followed by an auction. Guided tours and demonstrations are ongoing throughout the day and refreshments are for sale. For more information, contact Bly Blystone at 724-710-4898.