100-year-old foundry closes to make way for Google transit village

Byby Amanda del Castillo KGO logo
Saturday, October 13, 2018
100-year-old foundry closes to make way for Google transit village
In downtown San Jose, heavy industry makes way for high tech.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- For Kearney Pattern Works and Foundry in downtown San Jose, it's goodbye heavy industry and hello high tech.

The century-old company will soon wrap up operations and close its doors to make way for Google's future transit village. Employees are currently working to finish pattern work before officially shutting down the shop.

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ABC7 News was invited inside the building along South Montgomery Street, only yards from the SAP Center.

The foundry opened in 1919 and is one of the last remaining of its kind in the Bay Area.

Owner James Wagner explained the foundry's closing is personal. His grandfather, Al Kearney, launched the Pattern Works operation all those years ago.

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Every machine, mold and moment since 1919 have made the foundry the San Jose staple it is today.

Wagner said the once booming business survived a number of shifts in the economic landscape of Santa Clara Valley. The nickname "Silicon Valley" only came to be in the 1970s.

"Things have changed a lot," Wagner said. "Back in those days when I came here, this whole street was nothing but industry."

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ABC7 News and former South Bay Bureau Chief Rigo Chacon were there when the last cans rolled off the assembly line at the Del Monte Cannery elsewhere in San Jose. Many say that was an early sign of what was to come.

Over the years, work at the foundry reflected what was happening in Bay Area industry. Wagner explained foundry workers provided parts and services to packing firms, wineries, as part of the war effort and more.

Wagner showed ABC7 News around the facility and explained concrete companies, transit agencies and medical device manufacturers were also among the businesses the foundry served.

The foundry officially closed in August and should be empty by March.

At the peak of the Pattern Works and Foundry operation, Wagner said the company employed more than 35 people. The number dropped to 18 employees in August, and there are now just eight employees as operations have slowed down.

"To be honest with you, I see a lot of changing lifestyle," Wagner said. In San Jose alone, there is an ever-changing skyline to match the changing times.

Wagner is now selling equipment to other industrial operations. Machines left over will be sold at auction.

He told ABC7 News that moving or building an entirely new foundry would not be feasible. Instead, the operation Wagner's grandfather launched will end with Wagner.

"This is the end of my working life," he said. "I'm not going to try and do anything else."