Auction of historic BF industrial artifacts to benefit Our Place
Some of the selection of 100-year-old foundry patterns to be auctioned on Nov. 15 in Bellows Falls.

Auction of historic BF industrial artifacts to benefit Our Place

BELLOWS FALLS — Historical industrial artifacts or sculptural art? Both, apparently.

Auction-goers will have an opportunity to decide for themselves when several dozen 100-year-old wooden foundry patterns are put up for sale by Sharon Boccelli & Company Auctioneers on Sunday, Nov. 15, at their auction house on Canal Street.

A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to Our Place Drop-In Center on Island Street.

The patterns were used to create sand molds for a variety of objects made from molten metal, such as cast iron pipes, gears, or machine parts. They were associated with the Bellows Falls Machine Company and Robertson Paper Company, which occupied a large brick mill on Island Street near the present site of Our Place.

The patterns were hand-made in the late 1800s and early 1900s by skilled woodworkers, who used a variety of tools to cut, assemble and carve the patterns into shapes specified by draftsmen and engineers.

About 15 years ago, Richard Ewald of Westminster West was historic preservation coordinator for the Town of Rockingham when he learned that a small building on Island Street was going to be demolished.

“On a 1901 map, the building was identified as the Pattern Shop for the Bellows Falls Machine Company, which later merged into Robertson Paper,” Ewald said recently. “I got a call from the Bellows Falls Historical Society that they had removed what they wanted for their collections and that it might be worthwhile to take a look at what was left before everything went in a dumpster.”

Ewald, an architectural historian, said he removed about 50 individual pieces and stored them in a barn and that the barn now has to be cleared out.

“The town had no means to preserve and curate these things, but I thought, 'well, somebody should save them because they're part of Bellows Falls' industrial history,'” he said. “As I handled each piece, I gained a new appreciation for the pattern-maker's craft. Basically, before something could be cast in iron, it had to be made perfectly in wood. Each one of these pieces is a sculpture in its own right.”

Ewald said that dispersing the artifacts in an auction was a way for Rockingham residents to own a bit of the town's history. He said he will donate a significant portion of the proceeds to Our Place Drop-In Center as another means of making sure that some of the value of the objects remains in the community.

“Our Place serves a critical need,” Ewald said. “And it's basically right across Island Street from where the Pattern Shop was located.”

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