Saturday, March 06, 2010

Grove City Landmark Wendell August Forge Destroyed by Fire

Metal giftware landmark Wendell August Forge was destroyed by fire Saturday afternoon. The fire broke out in the early afternoon. All customers and employees safely made it out of the building. Several fire companies responded to fight the blaze, including Grove City, Pine Township, Springfield Township, Mercer East End, Unionville, Hermitage, Jackson Center, and Volant. More companies have responded - and continue to respond as of this entry (4:08pm).

The blaze reportedly started with a chemical spray that caught fire. The plume of smoke went hundreds of feet into the air and could be seen in Volant.

Wendell August Forge is America’s oldest and largest forge, producing hand-wrought ornamental metalware and elegant giftware in aluminum and other metals since 1923. The company was founded in Brockway, Pennsylvania by Wendell McMinn August, who, at age 38, was active in the coal industry.

August engaged Ottone “Tony” Pisoni, a blacksmith in his coal mine, to hand-forge door latches for his home. Admiring the low cost and high quality of Pisoni’s work, August was inspired to start a decorative ironware business. Pisoni was joined by three more blacksmiths who handcrafted the first product line, including one-of-a-kind fireplace andirons, candlesticks, lighting standards, doorknockers, latches, railings, and grilles for windows and doors.

In 1930, a commission to create decorative aluminum gates and elevator doors for the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) led to a new era of design innovation.

Pisoni mastered the art of forging aluminum, and the company prospered, forging the designs of James McCausland, an architect who joined Wendell August in 1928 and became Designer and Operations Manager. A commission for architectural remodeling at the Grove City National Bank proved so successful that the Bank’s president convinced Wendell August to relocate to Grove City, even investing in the company to facilitate the move. Wendell August’s Grove City forge is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Sadly, there were thousands of incredible pieces of artwork in the building - many museum quality, many rare, many discontinued.

For sake of full disclosure, both my wife and my mother worked for the Forge. My wife was in showroom sales and my mother in catalog sales.


Katrina Quinn said...

Thank you, Rich, for this post. Those of us who live nearby have been concerned about the safety of our neighbors this afternoon, especially since it has not been clear to us exactly where the fire broke out. This promises to be a great loss to the community.

Katrina Quinn

Anonymous said...

Was the bird, I think a cockatoo, saved?
Their work is beautfiul and this a huge loss for PA.

Sam Kirton

L. Baur said...

I'm heartsick. I have many sentimental ties to Wendell August Forge, beginning with wedding gifts to us 27 years ago. Now our son is a freshman in college just down the road from the Forge. It was his text to me this afternoon that led to a Wendell August google search, which brought me to your blog.

I am so sorry for all of Grove City and area, as well as for the owners and employees, including your wife and mother. My son's report is that no one is physically harmed and for that, we are very grateful.

L. Baur
Memphis, TN

Valerie said...

So very sad. I almost went there early this afternoon, then changed my mind. The Forge has been a favorite place of mine to visit and shop for 21 years. I'm just so thankful that people got out safely. What a loss.
Valerie Swarts

Anonymous said...

I was shocked and sad to hear about the Forge --living in Florida for 54 years I was happy to purchase unique and wonderful yearly gifts from them. I have a lovely tray wrapped at this time for a wedding gift in two weeks - it will be truly a treasure. They will be missed.
Betty Falck
Sarasota, Florida