About the Forge
Flood Plain Forge is located in a building near downtown Farmer City, Illinois, where there has been a blacksmith shop since 1892 as a wood frame blacksmith shop operated by the Gould family in what was then known as Mt. Pleasant, Illinois.
Two of the three forges in the present Flood Plain Forge building are from the original 1892 structure.
The freestanding 40-foot by 70-foot one story tile and steel structure was built around the original wood frame blacksmith shop in 1928 by Broe Meliza, who leased the building in 1920 and subsequently purchased it in 1923. Meliza operated it as a blacksmith shop-factory called the Bilt-Rite Factory which did general blacksmithing, patching, repair work, bodywork, wood work, horse shoeing, cutting, brazing, acetylene welding, and build truck bodies and trailers.
Broe Meliza worked in the building from 1928 until his death in 1960. A series of blacksmiths and welders leased the shop until 1970. At 11 am on New Year's Eve 1970, there was a sale of blacksmith tools and the doors were closed. In 1972, the building was purchased by Mr. Kimler to use as a warehouse for his furniture store.
Mark & Mindy Gardner purchased the building in 1998 and restored the building back to its original purpose as a blacksmith forge. They located a line shaft to replace the original one that had been sold at the estate sale in 1970.They also located belt-driven machinery which is powered by the line shaft.
The Flood Plain Forge machinery includes a 1918 South Bend Metal Lathe (shown at left), a drill press, a buffer and grinder, a 12-ton and a 30-ton punch press (shown at right). They also have two more drill presses, an Ohio twenty-inch metal shaper, and a 1919 Mayer Brothers power hammer that will also run on a line shaft as soon as they finish restoring them.
One of the heftiest pieces of equipment at Flood Plain Forge is a Bradley 300-pound Upright Helve Hammer which weighs over five tons. This, however, has its own 10-HP motor and is not part of the line shaft.