West Side News

Blacksmith shop brings 'working history' to Century Village

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To Grove City resident Jim Brown, the purest form of blacksmithing boils down to the hammer, fire and anvil.

"If I can get it hot enough and hold it still long enough, I can make it," said Brown, a Grove City resident and master blacksmith for more than 40 years.

"There are things I can make in that forge that can't be replicated by a machine. ... Every hammer mark is different. It has so much character to it."

Brown, who conducts traveling blacksmith classes with his wagon "The Iron Mule," plans to teach more classes to Grove City with the construction of an old-time blacksmith shop at Century Village at Fryer Park. The forge is already in place.

"I hope to make this a traditional blacksmith shop as much as possible," he said. "Everything old in here is going to be new again."

Brown said they are hoping to have the shop open and classes available after Jan. 1.

"We've been trying to build a blacksmith shop for years, and it's finally happening," he said. "For me really, it's the chance of the lifetime."

Support for the project, Brown said, has come from the city, the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society and the school district, which will give students the chance to name the shop's forge.

Grove City Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ed Merritt said the majority of classes at the shop will be offered through the Parks and Recreation Department when they become available.

"We think it'll be a great addition to Century Village," Merritt said. "We think it's very important to bring back a working piece of history."

The work constructing the shop is being performed by volunteers, and Brown said more are always welcome.

In historic times, Brown said towns often sprang up around the local blacksmith, their prosperity tied to the success of the shop.

"When the anvil rings, it's the heartbeat of most towns," he said. "The shape of the anvil hasn't changed much since the beginning of the Iron Age."

The blacksmith shop, he added, was seen as a community hub, a place where people came together. With all the smoke, flames, noise and creation, the shop was seen as something of a magic place, Brown said.

"This building is going to give us that opportunity," he said. "Hopefully, this is going to be a landmark."

Three different Grove City blacksmiths will be represented in the shop when it's complete, Brown said. The forge that will be used at the shop is known as a side-draft forge.

"It sucks the cinders and ash sideways," Brown said. "The fire comes up and make a 90-degree turn."

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