Blacksmith school forging life into former shop

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Thomas Smith remembers the last time he set foot inside the Cambria Iron Works blacksmith shop: back in 1992 just before the steel mills closed.

“They called us up and said, ‘We’re shutting down.’ And that was it,” said Smith.

After that Smith, who will turn 80-years-old next week, visited the vacant property.

“I came back a couple times and looked in the window, you know, but never went in,” Smith said.

Hammers will forge metal once again inside the national landmark. A blacksmith and metal arts school in New York will relocate to the Johnstown. They plan to open their doors and start offering classes in a few months.

“Architectural work to toolmaking and sculpture, but what we really do is teach workshops,” said Patrick Quinn, the head blacksmith.

The equipment sat untouched for 25 years. Now, the next generation of blacksmiths will bring them back to life.

“How you preserve industrial buildings like locomotives, you don’t let them sit and rust, you use them,” said Richard Burkert, Johnstown Area Heritage Association CEO. 

The school received a $70,000 grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to help cover relocation costs.

Instructors will offer public workshops for every skill level, attracting students from all over the world.

“Blacksmithing is becoming very popular again,” Quinn said. “A lot of people want to learn older skills nowadays.”

Those skills Quinn wants to pass on.

“Attracting students is going to be the easy part here, you know, with that shop,” said Quin.

Smith said he’ll be happy to see the old shop put to use.

“I can come by and tell people, ‘I used to work here’,” Smith said.

A re-emerging trade, forging new life into a piece of Johnstown’s history.

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