Russ Johnson
Old foundry a diamond in the rough

Off the bustling main street of this erstwhile Gold Rush boomtown, up a lane from the B&Bs and renovated brick storefronts and flocks of tourists, a bulky and aged factory looms like an elephant at a tea party, its windows cracked and its corrugated steel roof long ago overtaken by rust. For better than a century, the industrial menagerie inside Samuel Knight's iron foundry stirred and shaped the community. Back in the day, the mammoth blast furnace belched flame and spit out molten metal, its smokestack singing like a pipe organ. Built in 1872, the foundry predated electricity. Water piped from a Mother Lode flume spun old-fashioned turbines, the biggest nearly 4 feet across. ...