A Historic Industrial Crown Jewel
The Knight Foundry, set in the heart of Sutter Creek, California, began operation during the gold rush era and has recently reopened to the public after being closed for most of this decade. It is America’s last water-powered foundry and machine shop, and contains much of its original equipment; in place and capable of operation.
Established in 1873 by Samuel Knight, this extraordinary facility still houses unique historic equipment in its original context. From precision equipment for the area’s hard-rock gold mines, to the lights of San Francisco, to the impulse turbine system that powered many of California’s hydroelectric plants, the Foundry literally helped to build California as we know it.
During its gold rush-era heyday, the Foundry supplied equipment to the mines and timber industries in the surrounding area. The facility never modernized and still contains its original machinery, running on a system of line shafts and belt drives powered by water motors designed by Samuel Knight. A more detailed account of the Foundry’s history can be found on their website.
In the early 1990s the foundry had a living history workshop that provided hands-on opportunities to learn about blacksmithing, pattern making, machining, molding, and foundry. These efforts ended around 1996 when ownership of the foundry passed through different hands and the facility fell into limbo.
The preservation of the foundry languished until recently when the City of Sutter Creek reached an agreement with the owner. The land and buildings now belong to the city, but funds must be raised in order to purchase and preserve the machinery and equipment within.
The City of Sutter Creek is committed to preserving and restoring this unique site to create an educational resource that tells the story of local industry in the 19th century. The mission is to protect the Knight Foundry’s historic structures, features, and operations in order to convey its local and regional importance as a unique industrial facility.
Visit www.knightfoundry.com to learn more about the Foundry, its events, and ways to support this important mission. Check out the latest in Foundry news on Facebook.