A fully restored and operational hand-cranked blacksmith forge is one of tool restoration enthusiast Tony Calabrese’s projects. Photo by Benjamin Marxer.

Local man works to keep old technologies alive

For over 50 years, Tony Calabrese of Union County has been collecting and restoring the tools and machines of industry from ages past. 

Hundreds of his past and present projects are on display at the Shawnee Hill Barn, an interactive museum of sorts, located on the same property as the Shawnee Hills Bed & Breakfast north of Anna and near Cobden.

After decades of mastering both the use and restoration of the tools of trade technologies, Calabrese wants to share his skills and knowledge with a new generation. 

Calabrese is a retired educator, and feels that the decline in the availability of trade classes in school has limited the options of some students. 

“One quarter of all learning styles are individuals that work with their hands and not books. And we have almost eliminated that in education,” said Calabrese. 

“We are dropping the manual arts programs. We’ve dropped the auto shops, we’ve dropped welding, woodworking,” said Calabrese. “So I just want to bring it back, because for some individuals, this is the way they learn.”

Calabrese aims to take his restoration museum to the next level with his History Restorers project. He seeks people of all skill levels interested in learning how to restore museum-quality tools from blacksmithing, woodworking, stained glass and other tools of the trade technologies from 1860 to 1940. 

“Our motto is ‘giving meaning to the present by restoring and explaining the past,’” said Calabrese. 

Calabrese is planning to have an open house and grand opening celebration for anyone interested in learning more about this new phase of his working museum. 

“I want people to come to see if they have any interest in seeing a working museum, and if they’d like to get into any restoration,” said Calabrese.  “I’m looking for people who want to take this to the next step.”

The grand opening is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 29, at the Shawnee Hill Barn, which is located at 290 Water Valley Rd. east of Cobden. Free hot dogs and hamburgers will be served for lunch.

Calabrese says people of all skill levels are welcome to the project. He also aims to recruit people who want to learn, but also people skilled in the trade who might want to help teach as well. 

“I know there are people who are retired who used to do this, and still like it, but don’t want to do it everyday,” said Calabrese.” 

“They may be willing to teach someone from a generation who is interested to learn how things like this work, but there’s no place in school to learn it.” 

(Directions to Shawnee Hill Barn, coming from Anna: Take new U.S. Route 51 North approximately 6 miles to Water Valley Road. Turn right on Water Valley Road and go 200 yards. The Craftsman’s Guild and Shawnee Hills Bed & Breakfast have the same address. Turn right at the sign, go to the top of the hill. For more information, call 618-697-0384.)

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
Email: news@annanews.com

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