A Metalworking Tradition Forges On

Photos by Peter Woodall

Editor’s Note: We recently visited with metalworker Jason Roberts, whose 8,000 square foot shop occupies the former Yale & Towne Foundry a couple blocks from Globe Dye Works, in Frankford. After Yale & Towne, a manufacturer of locks and later forklifts, moved to a new plant on Roosevelt Blvd. in 1948, the building was bought by John Komada & Company. The family-owned wireworks firm, which specialized in custom commercial displays, closed in 2009. Roberts keeps a huge inventory of machines –both old and new– in his shop, a true collection of Philadelphia industrial history.

Founded in 2008, Roberts’ company produces high-end metalwork including ornamental, architectural, interior and exterior furnishings, and sculpture. With a degree in fine metals from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Jason traveled around the country to refine his craft, working in shops located in Illinois, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Detail from Roberts’s patio gate at Silk City, 5th and Spring Garden Street

Jennifer Leibert: How did you end up in Philadelphia?
Jason Roberts: I came to Philadelphia because I am originally from outside of the city and love Southeastern Pennsylvania. I was familiar with the region and had friends and family located here. Plus, Philadelphia, being an east coast city that is affordable and growing in population meant a market I could pursue.

JL: And you found a remarkable building.
JR: I outgrew my previous shop, which was rented, and having as much equipment as I do, moving is a great expense, therefore, I started to look for buildings I could purchase. This building has remarkable space and suited my budget.

JL: Are you inspired by the history of the foundry?
JR: I was very interested in the history of the building because as a craftsman, I like to look into the past and learn from it. It is important to me to build upon that. I am also very excited to be the next chapter in this building’s history as an industrial property, whereas so many buildings like this are turning into lofts or several artist spaces. I consider myself apart of industry.

JL: In Philadelphia tradition, you must work with other craftspeople in the neighborhood?
JR: Erector Sets, Carter Studios, as well as developers such as Globe Dye Works.

JL: What do you think about Frankford?
JR: I am right on the border of Bridesburg and Frankford, but it depends on who you ask. It is in a nice neighborhood, close to suppliers and I-95, making it a quick trip to Center City Philadelphia.

JL: You intend to expand in the space and do some other interesting thing here.
JR: I hope to grow my business, utilize the large roof square footage for solar panels and green space and build a better office.

About the author

Jennifer Leibert was born and raised in the Kensington section of Philadelphia and has a deep passion for Philadelphia history. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and a M.A. in Museum Studies, with her graduate thesis focusing on public art in Philadelphia. After completing her college coursework, Jennifer was selected for The City of Philadelphia’s Destination Mayoral Fellowship, where she was apart of The Public Art Office (now apart of The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy). It was during this experience that her passion for art and architecture grew stronger. Jennifer is also a caretaker for an historic home in Northwest Philadelphia, teaches with the Claymobile Program (an award winning mobile ceramic art program), and is the Public Programs Coordinator at the Wyck Association.

Send a message!



1 Comment


  1. Beautiful photos.

Trackbacks

  1. Jason Roberts MetalWorks LLC - J. Roberts Metalworks Featured on Hidden City Daily

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Digging Up Vine Street In Search Of Old Skid Row

Digging Up Vine Street In Search Of Old Skid Row

April 26, 2017  |  Vantage

Public health scholar Steve Metraux exhumes the heart of Philadelphia's Skid Row, buried under the Vine Street Expressway by the hands of urban renewal. > more

Khmer Monastery In Kingsessing Enlightens The Schuylkill

Khmer Monastery In Kingsessing Enlightens The Schuylkill

April 24, 2017  |  Vantage

Dan Papa celebrates the Cambodian New Year with a look at the Wat Khmer Palelai Buddhist temple under construction in Southwest Philly > more

Behind The Publicity Stunt At Benjamin Franklin's Grave

Behind The Publicity Stunt At Benjamin Franklin’s Grave

April 19, 2017  |  Vantage

Nearly 70 years after Benjamin Franklin’s death, public outcry demanding honor for the Founding Father transformed a battered, overgrown gravesite into a popular tourist destination. But the real story isn't at all what we've been told. Join Mark Dixon as he uncovers truth and public deception behind the hole in the wall at Benjamin Franklin's grave > more

A Powerhouse Of Footwork And Fitness On Delaware Ave

A Powerhouse Of Footwork And Fitness On Delaware Ave

April 18, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

On the outskirts of Fishtown, a dance club and rock climbing gym keep spirits high inside an old 19th century trolley car power station > more

Engineering & Architecture Ride The Rails At Athenaeum

Engineering & Architecture Ride The Rails At Athenaeum

April 15, 2017  |  Vantage

An exhibition at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia illuminates the history of railroad architecture through drawings, photographs, and more. Michael Bixler has the review > more

Ghost Station At Art Museum Rises From The Dead

Ghost Station At Art Museum Rises From The Dead

April 13, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. walks us through the origins of the mothballed "Art Museum Station," now being renovated at the PMA, and one man's visionary plan for mass transit in Philly that never came to be > more