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Posted on Sat. Aug. 09, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Fort’s blacksmith shop rises from ashes

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The new blacksmith and carpentry shop to replace the one that burned earlier in a May fire on the grounds of the Old Fort has begun to take shape and could be completed as soon as the end of next week.

Workers lugged 120-pound ash beams up ladders Friday afternoon to form the roof of the building, which will contain six rooms when it is finished, twice as many rooms as the former building.

“It’s going to be one strong building,” said Chad Martz, one of the workers at the site. “If you built your house like this, it would never fall down.”

On May 27, Fort Wayne firefighters were called to the Old Fort for a building fire. When they arrived, they found the former blacksmith building engulfed in flames.

The new building has to follow modern building codes but has been constructed to be as authentic as possible to what a 200-year-old building might look like.

The building will be sheathed in inch-thick ash planking that will be held in place by antique-design square nails that have been made by the same company for over 200 years.

“You’d be surprised at the number of people who use old nails” and use old construction methods, Martz said.

The project has stirred a fair amount of excitement among the re-enactors and hobbyists who appear at the Old Fort for events throughout the year.

A worker on the site who only identified himself as John said the man who worked as a carpenter in the old shop and lost a lot of tools in the fire was so excited about the new building that when he returned from a 30-day military deployment, he had his wife take him from the airport directly to the Old Fort instead of going home first.

Jim Firestone, a blacksmith who also worked in the shop, said he was impressed with what the building crews were doing and how they were doing it.

“I appreciate the way they’re doing this. It’s beyond belief.”

The floor of the building will also be paved with brick pavers, similar to the blacksmith shop at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The blacksmith’s forge will also be a replica of the forge at Williamsburg.

The extra rooms will allow more re-enactors, hobbyists and professionals to ply their trades during events at the Old Fort, volunteers have said.

The building is being made of wood that was reclaimed from some of the thousands of ash trees that had to be cut down after they were infected by the emerald ash borer. The contractor on the job is Kurt Stark of Preston Allen Homes.

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