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Sutter Creek Foundry Preserves California's Golden History

Patrick Dirden / Flickr

Patrick Dirden / Flickr

A part of California's gold-rush history could soon function again as a working facility in one town in the Sierra Foothills aims to preserve the state's history.

The Knight Foundry is a complex of buildings just on the edge of downtown Sutter Creek littered with historical artifacts everywhere. Machinery belts hum as they did back when California was still a new state.

Sutter Creek Vice Mayor Robin Peters says if local gold mines needed a large iron tool or piece of equipment, odds were it came from the foundry in the late 1800s.

"The beauty of the facility is that everything is still present in its original context; the tools, the equipment - all of the facilities are here just as they were a hundred years ago and they're all operable," Peters says.

Sutter Creek was a foundry town, and its products can still be found adorning the state Capitol building in Sacramento as well as structures throughout Old Town.

Then, in the mid-1990s, the foundry's melting furnace poured its last cast. Since then, there have been failed attempts to restore it. The National Trust for Historic Preservation even listed it as one of America's eleven most endangered historic places.

But now, efforts to save the facility are looking up.

The land and buildings were recently donated to the city, which Peters says was a crucial step in making Knight Foundry a place to teach fading skills.

"That's really the goal. We see this as an educational facility, a working industrial facility from the 19th century that will help to pass on skills that will be lost otherwise," Peters says.

The city is still working to raise the money needed to buy the historic contents of the buildings.

Organizers hope to eventually pour molten metal at the foundry several times a year, truly keeping the past alive.

The Knight Foundry's open house will be Sunday, April 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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