Friday, March 5, 2010

5 March 1901: Athens Foundry and Machine Works "Now Running At Full Blast"

On this day in 1901, the Athens Daily Banner announced that the Athens Foundry and Machine Works was now under new ownership and management, and had started again taking orders and had started to produce items for area businesses.

The Foundry had been first incorporated in 1850 as Athens Steam Company, and produced wood items such as doors, blinds, and sashes; cast iron and brass fittings; and other machinery such as steam engines, boilers, and iron fencing. The business was a success, but not insured, so when the factory burned down in 1853, investors lost everything.

When it reopened in 1854, the Foundry also started making iron fences, verandas, and balconies. In the late 1850s, they created iron fencing and the Arch for the University of Georgia. The Arch originally had gates, but they were removed some decades later. The company also created items for local businesses, such as circular saw mills and pumps, and advertised the advantage of buying locally rather than from northern producers.

During the Civil War, the Foundry produced many items no longer available from other sources, such as threshers, broilers, looms, and sugar mills for the Athens Manufacturing Company, the Athens and Princeton Factories, and the Athens Iron Manufacturing Company. Though they often had to advertise for coal and draft-ineligible laborers, even offering to pay food to those who worked for them, "no other business in Athens could supply so many different items or ones so good."

In 1863, the Athens Steam Company changed its name to the Athens Foundry and Machine Works. Among its most famous creations during this time was the famous double-barreled cannon. The plan was to connect two cannon balls with an eight-food chain that, when fired, would act as a sycthe through an enemy line. However, testing showed that it did not work as intended, as it was impossible to fire both barrels simultaneously, and therefore could not be aimed with any accuracy. It now sits on the lawn of the Athens-Clarke County City Hall.

Today, the site of the Foundry buildings is home to the hotel Foundry Park Inn & Spa.

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