Volunteers lend hand to restore Old Fort’s shop

Volunteers helped tear down the Old Fort's blacksmith shop Saturday. A bigger one will replace it.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A group of about 25 people helped tear down the Old Fort’s burned blacksmith shop Saturday. It was step one of Historic Fort Wayne’s plan to build a new and bigger blacksmith shop on the property.

The Old Fort’s blacksmith and work man’s shop caught on fire in late May. Leaders at Historic Fort Wayne, which has managed the site since 2004, had opened the burned shop originally. However, had since decided to tear the damaged building down and rebuild.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do at first,” said Norman Gable, Historic Fort Wayne President. Gable oversaw Saturday’s volunteers who helped tear down the shop.

Gable said the organization hoped to have a new blacksmith shop sometime this winter.

“The new shop will be eight feet bigger,” said Gable. “It’s going to be our demonstration center. The blacksmith shop will still be at the center of the building. We’ll have four rooms, two on each end, available for outside people to come in and demonstrate different crafts. It could be woodworking, cabinet making, leather making, tinsmithing, or pottery. We’ll ask different craftsmen in town to come in and work a day or a weekend.”

Gable and other Historic Fort Wayne leaders weren’t sure how much the new structure will cost. Since May’s fire, the organization has raised $5,000 in donations for the upcoming project.

Saturday’s work consisted of tearing down the shop’s wooden siding. Other volunteers than began ripping nails out of the wood pieces and the shop’s wooden doors.

Salvageable wood was separated from wood that was too damaged to reuse, which was torn away. The reusable wood will be stored and then used on the new shop.

Gable said lumber for the new shop has already started being cut for the upcoming work.

The damaged shop put up a fight, but was taken down after a few hours of work. Crews hooked one end of chain to a skidloader and the other end to the old shop’s wooden support beams. It took three tries for the roof to finally fall to the ground. From there, the rest of the wood rummaged through to see what could be used again.

Organizers were pleased to see the work completed quickly. “They really attacked this thing,” said Gable with a small laugh. The plan was to invite volunteers out on both Saturday and Sunday. With the job complete, crews will now get Sunday off.

The fire hasn’t been the only challenge to plague the Old Fort this summer. Earlier this month a cannon was stolen.

Security has been added to the Fort’s grounds since the burglary. Gable said police are still looking for the cannon.

“Our fear is that someone will do something stupid, and hurt themselves or someone else,” said Gable, who added that Historic Fort Wayne workers have had day-long training to shoot the cannon.

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