This week’s 2023 Community Initiative Award winner spotlight is on the Titusville Iron Works in Titusville.

The Titusville Iron Works traces its roots to the Titusville Manufacturing Co., the first foundry and machine shop exclusively serving the oil industry, founded in 1860. Local businessmen purchased the company in 1895, renamed it the Titusville Iron Works, diversified its product line, and expanded it with new buildings and acreage.

Over the first few decades of the 20th century, the iron works evolved as owners consolidated other companies and business interests in the facility. In the early 1940s the federal government invested in new machinery and buildings for the iron works to support the war effort. By 1964 the plant was closed and the property and buildings subdivided.

Fast forward to today, and the site of this 19th century foundry is a busy event venue and preservation success story. I asked owner Bob Joyce to share the story with us.

Rendering of a large industrial factory.

Titusville Iron Company campus at Mechanic and Franklin Streets in Titusville, ca. 1932.

I noticed on your Windfall Road Shop website that the shop restores automobiles and “all things interesting,” which certainly includes the Titusville Iron Works (TIW). Please share a little about yourself? Do you consider yourself a preservationist?

Yes.  I’ve always been a “gearhead” and loved seeing anything old/vintage restored.

Row of pick up trucks parked along the front of a one-story building.

TIW’s main facade along S. Franklin Street.

As I was doing some research about this project, I spent some time on your websites and the Iron Works social media. There is quite a lot contained in the factory’s original 1895 machine shop – a museum, bar, and event venue. Can you tell me a bit about how this ambitious project got off the ground? Did you have an idea in search of a building or vice versa? Did you see a local need to fill?

The building presented itself.  Loving industrial buildings… the architecture of this building was very cool.

Shortly after purchasing the building, my son Alex and I took a trip across Rt. 66 for his 21st birthday. During our trip, we were enamored with all of the oil related signs and memorabilia… and how many of these oil companies had direct ties to Titusville. We thought it would be neat to have a venue that could tell the stories of the Titusville folks that started, or had ties to, many of these companies.

Information panels and old advertisements attached to a brick wall and in openings.

The factory’s – and Titusville’s – history is shared with visitors at different locations.

In conjunction with that Alex and I were both lovers of music.  He had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (MD), and as time progressed, so did the MD, which limited his ability to travel to the music.  So we wanted to bring the music closer to him. Fortunately we were able to combine those things… hence Titusville Iron Works Tap House.

I know that Titusville Iron Works LLC purchased the property in 2017. What kind of shape was the property in and where did you start with the rehabilitation? How did you fund the project?

We purchased the original “machine shop” of the Titusville Iron Works in 2017.  The entire complex was subdivided in the late 1960’s.  Most recently the structure was used as a furniture showroom/warehouse.

Historic photo of a large one and three story brick factory.

Titusville Iron Company main (east) facade, early 20th century. The machine shop is the one-story section with dormer windows.

We began by removing steel siding that had been attached to the gable end facades to expose the brick.  Inside, there had been cement blocks installed to subdivide many areas.  We removed this to expose the original brick and windows/doors.  We demolished many of the partitions, etc. that had been installed over the years.  And lots of cleaning, rewiring, installing a sprinkler system, restoration of brick, etc.

In 2020, we purchased the area adjacent to the machine shop where the original Iron Works Headquarters was located, along with the attached building which housed the engineering and drafting departments.  Shortly thereafter, we applied for, and subsequently received, a PHFA Grant through the Community Revitalization Fund (CRF) for a mixed use project which assisted us in redeveloping the second floor of the Drafting/Engineering building into four loft apartments, as well as to assist in developing commercial space.

The entire project has been self-funded, along with the assistance from the PHFA grant.

 What is next for the Iron Works? Do you have plans for another project in Titusville?

We have completed a dozen or so “redevelopment” projects within the Titusville city limits.

Some of our past projects include the “Gateway” entrance to Titusville, relocation and restoration of a vintage Sun Oil  (i.e. Sunoco) gas station to Titusville (the co-founder of Sunoco was a Titusville resident and one of the owners of Titusville Iron Works in the early 1900’s), a 1902 church which we developed into an airbnb, a Hardware Store building in the middle of town, which also was a total rehab and now is a home to multiple commercial tenants, and a Livery Stable which also has multiple commercials tenants.

Small white building with gas pumps.

The restoration of this Sun Oil Company building next to TIW is one of their many projects in Titusville.

We just acquired an additional 47,000 square feet of the original Titusville Iron Works adjacent to our current facility.  We hope to expand/enhance our current tap house/museum/entertainment venue space, as well as redevelop the buildings and may offer industrial space for lease.  There are several overhead cranes available in the space.

Are there other organizations, people, or companies you’d like to acknowledge for their contributions to this project and its success?

  • First and foremost, my late son Alex has been the inspiration for most things we’ve accomplished in the past 30 years.
  • The team at Windfall Rod Shop (WRS) which has done most of the renovations (along with several sub-contractors).  The WRS crew is crazy talented and we are fortunate to have them.
  • The team at Titusville Iron Works Tap House who have been providing cold beverages, food and keeping the place clean for our customers; along with the Magic Bus who also serves great food at the venue.
  • Our customers!  We have had great support from the entire region.
  • Ellwood Group who has sold us additional properties along the way to help us expand.
  • PHFA for financial assistance in the development of the mixed use residential/commercial space.
  • The talented musicians we have in this area and beyond that entertain folks at our venue.