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How the machines that built Northern California hope to survive a second pandemic | Bartell's Backroads

The restaurants, the clothing stores and wineries of Sutter Creek all benefit from Knights Foundry, but when the pandemic hit, that all changed.

SUTTER CREEK, Calif. — A coronavirus vaccine is finally here, but months of social distancing is still ahead of us. 

The pandemic has impacted many of California’s landmark attractions. One landmark in particular, the Knight Foundry in Sutter Creek, was hit especially hard. Inside the historic building are machines that first built Northern California. The metal-working machines made mining tools for the gold rush, repaired parts for logging equipment and built instruments for farming.

These machines made big parts and small parts, but most importantly, these machines are a national treasure, says Knight Foundry volunteer Frank Cunha. 

“This is the last water powered foundry [in Sutter Creek] that we know of in the United states and probably in the world,” Cunha said. 

Since 1873, the Knight Foundry and machine's shop brought prosperity to the town of Sutter Creek. 

“They stayed in business with different owners all the way to 1989,” Cunha said.

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Today, the Knight Foundry is a working museum, attracting tourists from all over the world to downtown Sutter Creek. The restaurants, clothing stores and wineries all benefit from the foundry, but when the pandemic, hit that all changed. 

Tour guides like Gary McKeeman were forced to turn those tourists away.  

“Giving tours is my favorite part, but we haven’t been able to do that in months. It’s just devastating,” McKeeman said.

The reopening of museums depends which color their respective counties are in. Since Sutter Creek, and ultimately Amador County, is still in the purple tier, that means the Foundry isn't open. Restaurants, clothing stores and wineries have not benefited from the tourists that the Foundry would normally bring in and as the pandemic drags, on the Foundry also suffers. 

“When we weren’t able to raise money, all the volunteers reached into their pockets and are buying materials and such,” Cunha said.

The machines in Knight Foundry are the machines that made Northern California. They benefited the miners, the loggers, the farmers and now the tourism in Sutter Creek. Knights Foundry survived the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, also known as the Spanish Flu, and volunteers are confident it will survive the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Watch our Facebook, our Instagram as soon as we can we are going to open up,” Cunha said.

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