Written by Art Petrosemolo
This fall I did a story in Destination magazine on Amish artist-in-wood Mike Fisher from New Holland. Mike crafted the beautiful tables that grace the Harvest Table restaurant and the Village Square.
It got me thinking about the majestic metal tree that also greets visitors to the Village Square lobby and I inquired about who made it. Well it turns out it is the work of another Amish artisan, Amos Glick, of Compass Ironworks in Gap.
Scott Weaver, director of campus services, noticed a Japanese maple tree Amos crafted for the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg Pa. He brought the work to the attention of Garden Spot leadership and they all agreed a piece by Amos would be a great addition to the Village Square, which was scheduled for renovation. Amos began design and production on the tree, which took close to a year to complete. The tree is 14-feet tall and almost 10-feet in diameter.
Scott Miller, chief marketing officer, suggested I visit Amos. I took good friend Bob Collins with me. Bob heads up the team that recently started a metal shop on the west side of Kinzer. He is an experienced metalworker and I knew I needed someone with me who understood what Amos would talk about.
Amos’s business, Compass Ironworks, is on PA Route 30 in Gap. When Bob and I drove in the gate, we were overwhelmed with the property, and, in particular, Amos’s house. The house must be 5,000 square feet and every window, balcony, stairway and walkway is decorated with wrought-iron rails. It is overpowering. When Amos introduced himself, I took a chance and said in response, “Your house is a little overkill, Amos,” and he just smiled and laughed. We were off to a good start.
Amos gave me and Bob the tour. His shop is huge with large pieces of equipment to work metal, heat it, turn it, fashion it and paint it. Electricity ran only the machines that needed it. There were no large shop lights but plenty of skylights to let in natural light.
We visited on a hot August day and we retired to Amos’s conference room, which was a little cooler (but not air conditioned), to talk. The youngest of Amos and Susie’s seven children interrupted to bring us (and all the shop workers) ice cream, a particularly special treat.
I learned that Amos, like many other young men of his heritage and age in the early 1990s, was squeezed out of farming because of the high cost of tillable acreage in Lancaster County. Amos watched a local blacksmith as a youngster and learned the metal trade in his teens. He started a business making lawn ornaments in the garage of his family’s home in Paradise.
“Things were going well to start,” Amos said, “until one day, a few years in, one of my wholesale customers came to see me and asked why his prices were higher than a competitor.” It turned out that the items in question were rip-offs of what Amos had been making and were being imported from China. “The handwriting was on the wall,” he said, “and I knew that I had to expand my business or find something else to do.”
Friends and customers encouraged Amos to exhibit at local home shows with samples of his work. They especially recommended he display ornate railings so favored by many with large homes. Amos decided he would exhibit and set up a display at the Philadelphia Home Show in the mid-1990s. During the event he met the wife of former Philadelphia Eagles’ star lineman and then US Congressman Jon Runyan. The Runyans were building a big, new home on Philadelphia’s Main Line and asked Amos to do all the railings and gates.
“It was my first big commission,” Amos said, “and took months to complete. They really got me started.”
Today, work from Compass Ironworks graces homes and businesses in 40 states. Commissions can take months to complete and install and billings are literally thousands of dollars.
It is a family business. Amos’ dad works for him and his young son Benjamin, 16, already works side-by-side with him. Benjamin helped form many of the leaves on the Garden Spot tree. A younger son looks forward to finishing school and joining the family business. He was proud to show Bob and me a pony cart he had made of aluminum from design to completion including all the aluminum welding which Bob told me is no easy task.
The tree Amos did for Garden Spot grew from the work – a Japanese Red Maple – he did for the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg. The process took several planning meetings and about 16 months from start to the installation in 2016. It has become the focal point of the lobby and is seen by hundreds of residents and guests daily.