Cambria Iron Works
The Cambria Iron Lower Works is the oldest iron and steel industry site in Johnstown; first developed in 1848 by Daniel J. Morrell as part of the Cambria Iron Company, the Lower Works passed through the hands of Andrew Carnegie, Charles Schwab, and eventually on to the Bethlehem Steel Company. At the height of the steel industry in Johnstown, mills spread out over 13 miles along the Conemaugh, Little Conemaugh, and Stonycreek Rivers. Johnstown’s mills created rails for western railroads, plate, girders, axles, and structural steel and operated as a model for the industry up until the 1980s when the steel industry was hit by tough overseas economic competition. Johnstown saw its population drop from 63,232 to its current day 23,906. Over 12,000 people lost their jobs when the mills closed in 1992, from a town that once produced 2,000,000 tons of steel per year, to today’s level of zero.
For more on the history of steelmaking in Johnstown, visit the Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s History of Steelmaking in Johnstown
In 1989 the National Park Service identified the Cambria Ironworks Complex as a National Historic Landmark, one of only two American steel mills to have received this designation. Studies by the National Park Service and the Historic American Engineering Record have recognized the Cambria Iron Works site as one of the most historically significant steel mills in the United States.
In January of 1998, the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority purchased three buildings within the Cambria Iron Lower Works, including the Carpenter Shop, Machine Shop, and Blacksmith Shop, from the Bethlehem Steel Company after several years of lengthy negotiations. Both parties hoped that this effort would form the basis for full-scale commercial and industrial redevelopment at the Lower Works. In order to begin the restoration process and attract business, the properties needed to be remediated of environmental concerns left behind from years of industrial use.
In 2003, the Authority gained title to ten acres of land within the Cambria Iron Lower Works, including the land on which the Machine Shop, Carpenter Shop, Blacksmith Shop and Electrical Storage Building sit. This transaction also gave the Authority title to the Electric Storage Building , the Historic Pedestrian Footbridge, the Guardshacks and the Rolling Mill Office.
The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority is undertaking an eclectic mix of redevelopment initiatives to transform the former Cambria Ironworks into a revitalized complex, blending 21st Century businesses with historical structures. Due to environmental regulations and concerns for public health and safety, hazardous materials and substances that were a result of the buildings’ industrial past needed to be remediated as part of renovation/restoration efforts.
Over 13 separate federal, state, and local funding sources contributed to the completion of this project. The Cambria Iron Works Site was also designated a Brownfield Action Team (BAT) site, one of the first in the Commonwealth.
The Machine Shop
The Machine Shop is a large heavy steel frame structure with non-bearing brick walls, large wood frame windows, and glazed roof monitors built by Cambria Steel Company. Historically used to machine parts for the rolling mill and blast furnaces of the Cambria Iron Complex, the Machine Shop contains twelve overhead cranes and 40,000 square feet. From its completion in 1906 throughout the 1970s, the Machine Shop employed as many as 400 men in a single shift. All environmental assessment and remediation was completed by December 2003. Basic infrastructure repairs have been made to the building, such as the access and installation of utilities to the building from mainlines, as well as a new roof, floor, and overhead doors. The Authority is currently working to install rail access into the building. Over 13 separate federal, state, and local funding sources contributed to the completion of this project. The Machine Shop is home to a joint-venture, Johnstown Plate.
The Carpenter Shop
Historically known as the Pattern Shop, the Carpenter Shop was built circa 1870 and is a two-story brick bearing wall structure with wood frame floor and roof construction. The Carpenter Shop was originally used to make wooden patterns for castings in the adjacent foundry that serviced the Iron Works. Restoration work was completed on the Carpenter Shop in December of 2003.
The Blacksmith Shop
The earliest surviving building of the Cambria Iron Works, the Blacksmith Shop was erected circa 1864. Located within the ten-acre Cambria Iron Works Complex, the Blacksmith Shop is the most historically significant of the structures. Originally owned by the Cambria Iron Company, the Blacksmith Shop produced a wide range of metal products throughout the 19 th and 20 th centuries. With the decline of the steel industry and the closing of Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1992, the Blacksmith Shop has since been vacant.
The Blacksmith Shop is a large brick structure that was constructed in at least five stages. The original building is octagonal shaped with an octagonal cupola, containing heavy timbered roof trusses with iron tension rods, common-bond red brick walls and pilasters. In the 1870s, a rectangular wing was added to the west elevation and in 1885 another wing was added on the east elevation. It retains a full complement of original turn-of-the-century forging and smithing tools and a variety of steam-powered hammers, including a ten-ton steam hammer owned by the Smithsonian Institute and
leased to the Redevelopment Authority .
The Blacksmith Shop is the cornerstone in an interpretive and visitor development plan for Johnstown and the Allegheny Ridge State Heritage Park. These plans anticipate that the Blacksmith Shop will be the keystone of a visitor infrastructure where working artisans will perform their craft to give tourists a firsthand look at the art of blacksmithing and Johnstown’s steelmaking heritage – not simply a museum, but a working blacksmith shop.
Initial stabilization efforts encompassed critical roof repairs, sealing of openings, and repointing of collapsing brickwork. Environmental remediation and historical restoration are to be undertaken in the fall of 2006. Funding sources include U.S. EPA Brownfield Cleanup, U.S. Department of Interior National Park Service Save America’s Treasures, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program, Westsylvania Heritage Corporation and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.
Electrical Storage Building
Also known as the Blast Engine House for the Cambria Iron Furnaces No. 1-4, the Electrical Storage Building, c. 1873, is a 20,000 square foot building with common-bond brick walls and pilasters, wrought iron, pin-connected Pratt roof trusses, and arched door and window openings. The Engine House continued in service through the 1950s and served as storage thereafter.
The initial phase of remediation was completed in April 2005. Additional remediation and repairs are being performed as this building is now home to Aspen Fluid Logistics.
Johnstown Urban Greenway trail
The Johnstown Urban Greenway Trail is a 0.8-mile trail which was completed in January of 2004. The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, constructed the trail. It is located along the Conemaugh River, running along Iron St. from Johns St. to the Cambria Iron Pedestrian Bridge. Since the trail is built along the Conemaugh River Wall, part of the Army Corps of Engineers Johnstown Local Flood Protection project, visitor orientation along the trail includes signage depicting the history and development of the river walls. The Urban Greenway Trail is part of the Path of the Flood Trail currently under development.
The Cambria Iron Works Pedestrian Footbridge & Guardhouses
From as early as the 1850s, a number of railroad and wagon bridges spanned the Conemaugh River at or near the site of the current Cambria Iron Works Pedestrian Footbridge. These earlier bridges had been removed by the late 1930s, most likely washed away by the flood of 1936. In their place, Bethlehem Steel erected a two-span pedestrian bridge, the easternmost section of which survives today. This bridge over the Conemaugh River served as a pedestrian crosswalk for workers entering and leaving the Bethlehem Steel Mills. The western portion of the historic bridge, as we see it today, was rebuilt after the 1977 Flood.
Remediation and restoration efforts included the rehabilitation of the historic eastern span and the replacement of the western span with a structure that replicates the historic eastern span. The landing at Roosevelt Boulevard was reconstructed to make it handicap accessible and the bridge canopy, columns, railings, turnstile gates, and fencing were remediated and replaced.
Funding for this project included EPA Brownfield Cleanup, DEP Remediation, PennDOT Transportation Enhancement, and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The Authority is also in the planning stages of remediation and design for the adjacent Cambria Iron Guardhouse, as well as the two other guardhouses at the Minersville and Iron Street entrances. These edifices were formerly used as guardhouses by Bethlehem Steel and will be used for visitor orientation during the various events planned for the Festival Park and new Point Stadium, including Johnstown Folk Fest, Thunder in the Valley, AAABA and future concerts and activities at the Stadium.
The completion of the Cambria Iron Pedestrian Bridge Project will result in the extension of the Johnstown Urban Greenway Trail across the Conemaugh River into the historic Cambria City neighborhood and a more user-friendly recreation opportunity. This project will allow festival goers to easily travel by foot from the Cambria City Ethnic Festival to the Johnstown FolkFest Festival!