Century-old blacksmith shop restored, reopened at Heritage Acres Farm Museum

Click to play video: 'Labour of love: Restored blacksmith shop opens'
Labour of love: Restored blacksmith shop opens
Heritage Acres Farm Museum near Pincher Creek unveiled a new attraction this weekend. As Jessica Robb explains, it's been months in the making, and its completion is all thanks to a group of volunteers – Jul 11, 2021

Saturday was a very exciting day at Heritage Acres Farm Museum near Pincher Creek, Alta.

After about five months, countless volunteer hours and some elbow grease, a restored blacksmith shop opened over the weekend.

“Heritage Acres exists because of our volunteer base,” said Jim Peace, executive director of Heritage Acres Farm Museum.

The blacksmith shop was originally built in 1904 on Main Street in Pincher Creek, where it was open for a number of years. Peace wanted to see it moved to Heritage Acres, where it could live in its former glory.

“I had been bugging (some volunteers) for a little while,” laughed Peace.

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“We tried a couple of times, but then a group of people really took it on as a project.”

Garry Visser was part of the group and helped lead the blacksmith shop restoration.

“It was a project that needed to be done at Heritage Acres,” he said. “Some of our exhibits are getting pretty old and we had to do something new and that’s what we’ve done.”

Click to play video: 'Restoration of Oliver Building in downtown Lethbridge complete'
Restoration of Oliver Building in downtown Lethbridge complete

Restoring a building that’s over 100 years old back to working condition is no easy task. Peace said the inside had to be fixed up, the tools sorted through and organized, and the equipment had to be checked that it was in working order.

“They were designing the belt-driven pulley system and not all the pulleys were there,” said Peace.

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In the middle of the shop is a coal-fired forge. The trip hammer and drill are belt-driven, powered by a stationary engine that was built in 1925. Even the tools used within the shop are original and over a century old.

For Peace, it was important to have a working blacksmith shop on site.

“Many of the forges and many of the blacksmith shops you see in museums, they’re really stationary. They’re all signs,” he said.

“This is a coal fire forge that we’re going to use to build knives and we’re going to be doing demonstrations through much of the summer and the fall.”

In the future, he hopes to host some knife forging classes.

Click to play video: 'Historic town office for sale in Fort Macleod, Alta.'
Historic town office for sale in Fort Macleod, Alta.

George Mowat is a longtime volunteer at Heritage Acres. Seeing the blacksmith shop finally at the museum was a proud moment for him.

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“It really fits into the history of agriculture,” he said. “And that’s one of the reasons why we pushed to have something like this.”

“Today, if a part breaks on a tractor, they go into the local John Deere dealership and order it,” said Peace.

“One hundred years ago, you hired a guy who had a shop like this and you built it yourself.”

Visser was in the shop on Saturday learning how to blacksmith. They were making barbecue tools that were auctioned off later in the day.

“It’s great. The comradery of us old guys is awesome,” said Visser. “It’s what it’s all about.”

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