Lacombe Blacksmith Shop renovations moving forward

The oldest operating blacksmith shop in Alberta has had some work done recently.

The Lacombe Blacksmith Shop has been undergoing renovations for the past few months and Executive Director of the Lacombe and District Historical Society, Melissa Blunden says the work to the roof and siding have been done carefully over the past three months, following the Government of Alberta’s Heritage Conservation Advisers policies and mandates.

“As our heritage sites are both Provincially and Municipally designated, both levels of government are involved in permitting any work done to ‘character-defining elements’, especially when it comes to the restoration or conservation of those items.”

Purchased by the Lacombe and District Historical Society in 1991, the shop is currently it is designated as a Provincial Historic Resource by the Government of Alberta in 2011, and became a Municipal Heritage Resource in 2016.

In 2021, work on the exterior of the building included repairs to both the roof and siding, however in 2019 the doors and windows also had restoration work done to them.

In total there have been over $20,000 in recent repairs, the bill paid through Society fundraising efforts during community events and government grants.

With financial support from donors, the Lacombe and District Historical Society was able to complete repairs to the building’s exterior that aims to secure the building’s presence for another 100 years.

They’re not finished completely, last week work started on restoring the two famous trip hammers inside the building.

A trip hammer sometimes also called a tilt hammer or helve hammer, is a massive powered hammer, traditionally used in finery forges for drawing out blooms made from wrought iron into more workable bar iron. The trip hammers in the Lacombe shop have not run since 2015 partly out of safety concerns that the Society has had with operating the heavy equipment.

Blunden says that work to repair them includes replacing the worn belts, installing new guard rails, sourcing parts from Little Giant in the USA and servicing an antique engine that runs the entire system overhead.

Adding that sourcing appropriate parts has been the hardest journey of restoring the trip hammers.

“It has been an ongoing project the Society has been working on since even before I joined the team in 2018. Some of the parts we require are no longer made by manufacturers.”

She adds that disruptions in Global Trade due to the pandemic also impacted the Society’s abilities to source items from across the border, due to both increased costs and shortages.

They hope to have the trip hammers up and running during the 2022 season for demonstrations and special events.

If you would like to donate to support the efforts of restoring the heritage sites and keeping our shared history alive, please contact Blunden directly at lacombemuseum@gmail.com or 403-782-3933.

The Lacombe Blacksmith Shop Museum will reopen in the spring of 2022.