|Knight Club Noon Whistle Excerpts
The excerpts are presented in reverse chronological order, organized
As with any newsletter, each issue is a reflection of a moment in time.
Sometimes things unfolded as planned and discussed in the newsletter,
sometimes not. Very limited corrections have been applied to past
issues (generally only where page and site management tools
complain), so there may be out of date addresses, phone numbers and
The Foundry did indeed have a noon whistle, powered by compressed
air. Thanks to Andy Fahrenwald for telling me about this.
From February 2008 Noon Whistle
A Productive Year
2007 was a year of solid progress for the Knight Foundry
project, a year in which the Knight Foundry community came
together with renewed energy and also forged stronger bonds with
long term partners. At the beginning of the year, the City of Sutter
Creek signed a purchase agreement with the foundry owners. This
momentous event triggered a heightened level of engagement among
all the Knight Foundry activists.
The year saw significant evolution in the long term working
relationship between the non-profit Knight Foundry Corporation and
the City of Sutter Creek. The City has taken a proactive role in
preserving Knight Foundry since the mid 1990s. The fleshing out of
this relationship started with the City’s decision to take ownership of
Knight Foundry, with the non-profit responsible for restoring and
operating the site. A formal Operations Agreement was signed by
both parties and a Plan of Operation was agreed upon.
The KFC and City worked together on three major grant applications
• The California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) has
reserved $870,750 in matching funding for acquisition and cleanup.
• A grant application for $400,000 for environmental cleanup has been
submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency
• A grant application for $1,000,000 is currently under review by the
Sierra Nevada Conservancy to help fund clean up and acquisition.
Taken together these three grants, if awarded, can cover the greater
part of the acquisition and cleanup costs.
In early 2007, The Knight Foundry Fundraising and Capital
Campaign Committee (CCC) moved into high gear. This dedicated
group of foundry activists mounted an impressive series of community
events aimed at raising both public consciousness and money.
The CCC has set a goal of raising $200,000 and kicked off its activities
with a pledge campaign, pledges which were called in when the
purchase agreement for the foundry was felt to be on a firm footing.
The strength of community support demonstrated by this campaign
was a major factor in our success with the CCHE grant.
The CCC proceeded to develop and field a handsome informational
booth which was set up at a press conference held at Knight Foundry,
Black Bart Days, Italian Picnic Days, Jackson Heritage Days and the
Amador County Fair. The highlight of the year’s activity was a formal
dinner and auction held at the Jackson Rancheria. Attended by over
200 Knight Foundry supporters, the evening netted $27,740 in cash
plus a generous $7400 donation of dinners and facilities from the
Rancheria. The CCC has raised a total of $52,787 locally since it began
work. The CCC is planning a new round of fundraising events for
2008 to put us over the top. Stay tuned!
The total cost of acquisition, environmental cleanup and related
renovation work is about $3,000,000. Of this we currently have
committed some $650,000 from a variety of sources with $2,270,750 in
grants currently applied for. We cannot take the grants for granted, so
to speak, and we are also in urgent need of operating funds, so we
shall continue to seek funding on all fronts.
PG&E Seeds Ironmaster’s Endowment Fund
A gift from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company has enabled us to
establish a new fund - the Ironmaster’s Endowment Fund. This is an
important first step toward supporting our planned endangered
historic industrial skills preservation programs. Fulfilling our goal of
establishing a $1,000,000 endowment will ensure that the central role
of the Knight Foundry Ironmaster and other master craftspeople will
be supported over the long run.
2007 saw some important mass media exposure of Knight Foundry.
The History Channel’s Gold Rush Ghost Towns program featuring
Knight Foundry was rebroadcast several times. Sacramento ABC
Channel 10 produced a California Post Card feature on the foundry,
and the Los Angeles Times published Old Foundry: A Diamond in the
Rough, a front page, in depth, article putting the spotlight on Knight
Foundry’s Ironmaster, Russ Johnson.
Project Work Accomplished During 2007
While all this gathering of support and money has been going on,
some actual groundwork on the project itself has also been moving
The problem which has so long balked forward progress is the soil and
dust pollution which built up over many decades of foundry
operation. As the present owners conducted no operations at the
foundry, and so bore no responsibility for toxics on site, they didn’t
want to sell the property without being protected from unknown
environmental liabilities. By the same token, the City of Sutter Creek
didn’t want to take on ownership and indemnify the owners without a
high level of confidence that it wouldn’t be taking on an
undetermined, potentially crushing liability. Not unreasonable fears!
Resolving these concerns required a tenacious and creative
commitment to problem solving, which finally resulted in a positive
outcome - thanks very much to the efforts of Sutter Creek City
Manager Rob Duke.
The key was determining the extent of the environmental problems
actually present and how much they will cost to fix. Fortunately, the
Knight Foundry Corporation was successful in securing a $50,000
matching grant from the California Cultural and Historical
Endowment to fund full studies and then go through the process of
securing approval of a Remedial Action Workplan from the governing
authority, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control
(DTSC), altogether a lengthy and somewhat costly process.
The KFC has already raised the matching funds for this CCHE grant,
so this project is proceeding apace. The environmental studies have
been completed (the pollutants identified were about what we
anticipated - it’s not a Superfund site!) and cleanup planning is now
proceeding with the DTSC. This agency has shown a remarkable
willingness to work collaboratively on finding the best solutions, even
going so far as to inviting in the EPA to help fund the cleanup!
With remediation plans approved and funds raised to cover all costs of
purchase and cleanup, the City will take title. If planning and
fundraising continues on track, this is projected for June. Immediately
upon transfer of title, cleanup and renovation will begin and we can
move forward to realize our long deferred dreams.
The Year Ahead
The takeover of the foundry will bring into play the largest element of
our abundant human resources: our volunteer force. A massive
volunteer effort will be needed to assist with renovation and cleanup -
a quantum leap beyond anything we have attempted in the past. By
“massive”, we estimate that some ten or so volunteers will be needed
on site, daily, over several months! We have successfully sustained a
similar effort on that scale for one month, so this is not unprecedented.
Three construction projects related to environmental concerns will be
launched, of which some part will depend very heavily on volunteer
• In the foundry, the damaged backwall and the cupola furnaces will
undergo extensive renovation. As this work will stir up contaminated
dust, it must be done before cleanup takes place.
• The pipe shop will have major repairs made to its historic
• The storage building on the creek will have its flood damaged
The pipe shop building (which is currently supported with engineered
wooden braces) must be righted and repaired before contaminated soil
under the building can be removed. Inside, a forest of shoring timbers
resists building collapse. This in turn rests on the polluted soil and
cannot be safely disturbed for the soil cleanup. The shoring cannot be
removed until the weight of the hundreds of wooden patterns stored
on the second and third floors is lightened.
An immense amount of historic knowledge is hidden in the spatial
organization of these patterns - pattern sets for some of the nation’s
earliest hydro-electric plants are preserved here. Each pattern will be
photographed in situ, measured, described, entered into our collection
management computer system, stored on racks in another building
and then returned to its original location after the pipe shop is
repaired. We had started this process several years ago, but work was
suspended when we met impasse on buying the foundry.
We’re way behind on our dusting...
Dust in the machine shop and foundry has proven to be laced with
lead stemming from bearing wear and flaking lead paint that was
used to suppress charring and soot after the fire of 1936. We’ve long
wanted to clear the machine shop of deposited dust and we’re going to
do that now with a vengeance.
Are you ready for this? ALL the loose objects in the foundry and
machine shop - tools, patterns, hardware, everything! - will need to be
removed, cleaned and then returned to their original locations when
structural dusting is complete.
This enormous job will be done in discrete “bagged off” sections. The
actual structural dust removal will be done by contractors, but, with
appropriate health and safety training and equipment provided, and
directed by our professional consultants, all the processing of the loose
items will be the responsibility of our volunteers.
A problem looking down is often an opportunity looking up. As with
the pipeshop pattern removal, this will be an opportunity to continue
the inventory and collection conservation work we began under our
Save America’s Treasures grant, several years ago. The system is set
up and we’ve had the experience of doing the work on a smaller scale.
Now that initial effort will pay off big time!
There will also be some involvement for volunteers with woodworking
or construction skills in the repairs to the timberframe structures in the
foundry and pipeshop. If our fundraising and planning for cleanup
stays on track, we’ll begin organizing the volunteer effort in May.
For anyone with a love for history, mechanics and old machines, this
project will be fascinating and rewarding. If you are interested, please
return the form included with this newsletter. Your work also
substantially leverages our grant funding. Our past volunteers will be
getting a postcard when the time comes.
When we have cleaned up sufficiently, we’ll open the doors to the
public and begin training docents. Visitors viewing the historic
renovation and preservation process itself will provide us with an
opportunity to offer new educational programming at Knight
Your continuing support is critical to our success.
While the bulk of our support must come from large institutional
grants and major donors, it is the support of our widespread
community of interest which qualifies us in the eyes of those large
givers. The annual donations of our supporters have added
significance in providing us with the gas in the tank we need up front
to keep moving forward through this most important New Year.
Our hats are off to all of you, donors and volunteers alike, for your
great generosity over the last year!
Project Director & Noon Whistle Editor
Issue #7, Nov., 2004
The excerpts are presented in reverse
chronological order, organized by
As with any newsletter, each issue is
a reflection of a moment in time.
Sometimes things unfolded as
planned and discussed in the
newsletter, sometimes not. Very
limited corrections have been applied
to past issues (generally only where
page and site management tools
complain), so there may be out of
date addresses, phone numbers and
The Foundry did indeed have a noon
whistle, powered by compressed air.
Thanks to Andy Fahrenwald for
telling me about this.
Photograph from the Amador County