Theodore F. “Ted” Krug, former president of Baltimore’s historic G. Krug & Son ironworks, whose founding dates to 1810, died May 18 of a stroke at the University of Pittsburgh Pinnacle Hanover Hospital in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The former Parkton and Cross Keys resident was 93.
“I worked for Krug & Sons for 27 years. I worked first for his father and then for Teddy when he took over the business,” said Raymond A. “Ray” Zelney. “I worked with him until 1978 when I went into business for myself when I started Windy Hill Forge in Perry Hall. Old Mr. Krug taught me blacksmithing, and me and Teddy worked lots of jobs together before he went into the office. He was a quiet fellow and like a brother to me.”
Theodore Frederick Krug, son of Theodore A. Krug, owner and operator of G. Krug & Son, and his wife, Elizabeth Lamotte Krug, was born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park.
He was a 1943 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and earned a bachelor’s degree in business in 1947 from the University of Maryland, College Park. After working as a field manager for the U.S. Census Bureau in Buffalo, New York, and as a life insurance salesman in Baltimore, Mr. Krug joined the family business, which is located near Lexington Market, in 1962 as his father moved toward retirement.
The landmark G. Krug & Son, the country’s oldest continuously operating metal works shop, was founded in 1810 by Augustus Schwatka, a German immigrant, at West Saratoga and Jasper streets. Its initial business was repairing wagon wheels for farmers and fabricating horseshoes.
As Baltimore grew and fine houses rose throughout the city, the business expanded into ornamental ironwork. In 1865, Gustavus Krug, Mr. Krug’s great-grandfather, who arrived from Germany in 1851, went to work for the business, took over the ironworks in 1865, and since that time, it has remained continuously owned and operated by members of the Krug family.
Gustavus Krug passed on the business to his son, T.F. Gustav Krug, who passed it on to his two sons, Gustav and Theodore A. Krug, Mr. Krug’s father.
“The firm’s two buildings are in the unpretentious brick style of their time, one of them two and a half stories with a sloping roof; the other, four stories high, straight stark and simple,” The Sun observed in a 1977 article.
“From outside, they are just two other old buildings. Inside, an office cluttered with papers, old patterns of twining grape arbors for railings, iron horses’ heads that used to be tying posts, an old wood stove for heat.
“In the shop, long strips of iron stored on makeshift iron brackets; ancient-looking contraptions once used for boring holes or shaping forges glowing, with grimy-handed workmen hammering away. Everywhere a layer of black soot, laboriously accumulated over so many years from the smoke of so many coal fires,” reported the newspaper.
An early customer was Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence who was 95 when he died in 1832, called on the firm to purchase hinges and latches used on his Southwest Baltimore estate.
In addition to hinges, latches and fine ornamental ironwork, G. Krug & Son supplied finely crafted railings, iron window bars, locks and keys, and miscellaneous items.
The ironworks through the years acquired an impressive list of clients whose products have been used in restorations such as Colonial Williamsburg, the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Assumption, Homewood House on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University, Old Otterbein United Methodist Church, the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon Place, the Shot Tower, Fort McHenry, both the Lord Baltimore and Southern hotels, the Hippodrome Theatre, and numerous homes and businesses.
During Mr. Krug’s tenure, major projects included the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Assumption, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and one of his favorite challenges, recreating replica fencing for the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, said a son, Peter Krug of Parkton, who manages the business.
The ironworks was seemingly impervious to the march of time. A 67-ton pressure punch and shear machine purchased in 1888 that had been operated by steam power was refitted with an electric motor. Electricity came to the shop during World War I, and alternating current replaced direct current around World War II.
“That punch and shear machine is just as useful today,” Mr. Krug told The Evening Sun in a 1984 interview. “There’s a lot of basic machines. ... Hammers haven’t changed since the Middle Ages. We’re the real McCoy here.”
“Teddy helped modernize the business, but if we had a job downtown, we put our tools in a wheelbarrow and pushed them to the job site,” Mr. Zelney said with a laugh. “We did things the old-fashioned way, and Teddy was very good to work with. I got my livelihood because I worked at Krug.”
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The ironworks was threatened in the 1970s by the Retail District Study Executive Committee, which, with support from the Greater Baltimore Committee, recommended that it be torn down and the site be turned into a parking lot.
Mr. Krug rose to the occasion to save the business, which dated to the time of President James Madison and whose symbolic anvil tucked in close to the wall above its entrance greeted customers and visitors. Through his efforts, the building restored and designated a National Historic Landmark, and now the site includes the G. Krug & Son Ironworks Museum.
Mr. Krug, who moved to New Oxford, Pennsylvania in 2005, retired in 1990. He was a member of the Hanover First Church of God in Pennsylvania.
Plans for a celebration-of-life gathering are incomplete.
In addition to his son, Mr. Krug is survived by his wife of 67 years, the former Barbara Pfitzner; three other sons, Theodore F. Krug Jr. of York, Pennsylvania, Steve Krug of Asheville, North Carolina, and Paul Krug of Longview, Texas; a sister, Ann Dentry of Silver Spring; 12 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.