Then & Now
Iron work began on the banks of the French Creek in 1783 and continued, weathering massive changes in ferrous metalworking techniques, for 200 years. The foundry produced castings ancillary to the Phoenix Iron and Steel Company’s main business as a manufacturer and fabricator of steel structures. Among these ancillary items were joint blocks used to connect the Phoenix columns of bridges erected by Phoenix Bridge Company a wholly owned engineering and fabrication subsidiary of the steel works.
Constructed in 1882, the foundry of the Phoenix Iron and Steel Company poured iron castings well into the 1970s. Truss work fabricated in the Phoenix Iron and Steel works using steel smelted and rolled in the Phoenix mills, supports the slate roof. The walls supporting the clerestory roof are rubble-core rough cut stone pierced by brick-trimmed windows and doors. The 8,000-square-foot pouring and molding floor was shaped by the requirements of casting. Integral equipment includes two cupolas, two core ovens and four gantry cranes dedicated to moving sand molds and heavy castings around the sandy shop floor.
The Foundry was a self-contained operation. Many of the old wooden molds that were used to create the machinery for other parts of the mill show the intricacy and detailed craftsmanship that went into the making of the machinery. There is a huge wooden crane inside the Foundry, still in its original location, thought to be the last and largest of its kind left in the entire United States. The ingeniousness of its design tells its own story about the standard of quality and inventiveness that made the Phoenix Iron Works respected and renowned throughout the world.
Built of locally quarried sandstone, the Foundry’s walls are two feet thick. The dark red and purple veins in the deep russet stone give the building a dramatic and haunting quality. One is reminded of medieval castle walls; still standing and undefeated by time. Indeed, its large Romanesque window and door apertures underscore the impression of a building that has withstood the ages.
Ironically, it’s massive, almost 14,000 square foot size, is relieved by the large openings. A unique band of clerestory windows divides the double tiered roof structure. These windows served several purposes. They allow light from above, much the way that skylights do today. They also provided the means by which intense heat produced by the furnaces could escape the building.
On December 29, 2006 The Hankin Group of Exton, PA acquired the Phoenix Foundry property from the Phoenixville Area Economic Development Corporation (PAEDCO). The sale was facilitated by the participation of the Chester County Industrial Development Authority. The Hankin Group is a dynamic real estate development company located in Chester County whose main focus is to design, construct and maintain multi-functional, new urbanist communities’ consisting of commercial, residential and retail properties.
The Hankin Group handled the interior renovations with plans for an “Entertainment and Special Event” venue. Completed in 2008, the Foundry now serves as a flexible facility that can accommodate a variety of events from formal weddings to corporate conferences to live performances and exhibit space. The Industrial character of the turn of the century steel foundry is largely intact and has been improved to provide a sense of sophistication and elegance that is necessary to attract weddings and other formal affairs.
Listed in the National register in 1987 as a contributing structure in the Phoenixville Historic District, the adaptive reuse of this old building in many ways is serving to bring the town back to life.
Phoenixville Foundry is celebrating it’s 8th year Anniversary as one of Chester County’s most unique, premiere event venues. We are honored to host many different events in our extraodinary space and have allowed us to share with you the “Then and Now” history and how this amazing building has evolved from it’s beginning in 1882 to it’s new beginning in 2008!