The Gruber Wagon Works, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the most intact examples of a rural manufactory in the nation. The family-owned shop produced wagons, and later automobile parts, in this structure until 1972. The wooden barn, built in multiple phases from 1882 to 1910, houses over 19,000 original artifacts consisting of wood and metalworking machines, tools, and templates, as well as several Gruber wagons. The shop was never modernized, and remains as it was circa 1910. The Gruber Wagon Works was relocated to its current site in 1976 by the US Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Blue Marsh Lake Project. The building was restored in 1978 and was opened as a public museum in 1982.
After twenty years of use, the Gruber Wagon Works had deteriorated to the point that it was listed on state and national endangered landmark lists. The team undertook an initial historic structure assessment report, which helped the county obtain funding for the work. The same team designed repairs to retain the existing form, integrity, and materials of the building while improving vulnerable areas experiencing ongoing deterioration and installing required ADA accessible upgrades. All work emphasized the maximum retention of historic fabric over wholesale replacement whenever possible. The use of durable, in-kind replacement materials was preferred rather than installing patches using a different material. Repair work was designed to match the character of the Gruber Wagon Works, which has a highly exposed structure, an irregular layout to accommodate the needs of the work, and a mechanic’s no-nonsense sensibility where useful materials are recycled, nothing is wasted, and everything must serve a purpose.
TEAM: John Milner Associates, Inc., Keast and Hood, Purcell Construction
AWARDS: 2012 Preservation Pennsylvania Commercial/Industrial Construction Award
GRUBER WAGON WORKS - Wyomissing, Pennsylvania
• Historic Structure Assessment, Grant Funding Assistance, Design and Construction, Berks County •