For nearly a decade, the Phoenixville Foundry has given corporate clients, brides and grooms, and other groups the opportunity to customize a unique and historic space for memorable events that receive rave reviews.
The foundry of the former Phoenix Iron & Steel Company, built in 1882, is an important symbol of Phoenixville’s industrial past and was in operation through the 1970s until the decline of the steel industry. The foundry remained dormant until the late ’90s when its restoration was planned as a catalyst for economic regeneration in the area.
In 1998, the Phoenixville Area Economic Corporation took ownership of the building and raised funds to restore its exterior, under the guidance of the National Park Service. The renovations brought the building into this century, while retaining its industrial character.
In 2006, the foundry was acquired by the Hankin Group, a real estate development company that had a visionary plan for the creation of a flexible event space to meld the industrial character of the building with modern elements for the interior spaces.
“It was more of a community project for the Hankin Group because they loved the architecture and the integrity of the building and wanted to showcase it for events, but they also wanted to bring economic development into Phoenixville,” said Caroline DeBottis, Facility and Events Director for the Phoenixville Foundry.
Besides being a popular destination for weddings and receptions, the Foundry regularly hosts conferences, business meetings, fundraisers, team-building activities, and other corporate events that take advantage of the building’s unique spaces. Returning clients include the Chester County Economic Development Council for its annual awards dinner, local restaurants that join together for the Taste of Phoenixville, and Handi-Crafters.
The two main event spaces inside the Foundry are the Cupola Ballroom and Mezzanine (8,100 square feet), a dramatic setting for formal and corporate affairs that accommodates up to 500 guests, and the West Wing Ballroom (3,000 square feet) for more intimate gatherings and mid-sized corporate meetings.
Both can be customized by the Foundry’s full-service team of designers and caterers according to the whims of each client.
Indeed, what corporations and other groups receive when they book an event at the Foundry is a “blank canvas,” said DeBottis. “We can transform the building into anything that the client wants. They have the flexibility of the space, and we can redesign it for each event and make it perfect for each event.”
One such transformation was arranged for a local pharmaceutical company’s holiday party.
“We did a wonderful event where we transformed the space into a Colorado ski lodge,” said DeBottis. “We had built-in fire pits outside, so we had an outdoor venue as well as an indoor venue. Another time, we transformed the West Ballroom into a theater. That’s what is great about this building: We get to be creative every day.”
The third unique space at the Foundry is the Heritage Center, an on-site museum of historic artifacts illustrating the industrial legacy of the Schuylkill River and the Phoenix Iron & Steel Company. The 1,500-square feet space is ideal for cocktail-style receptions and small social gatherings.
To DeBottis, the building’s past is as important as its present, and is a key element in distinguishing the Foundry from other event spaces.
“I always start everyone off in the museum to sell the historic background of the facility,” she said.
Instead of choosing the typical hotel or conference center for corporate or social affairs, many in Chester County and beyond can consider the option of holding these events in a building listed on the National Register as a contributing structure in the Phoenixville Historic District.
In doing so, they support the adaptive reuse of this unique building that is helping to bring this one-time industrial town back to life.