The Blacksmith at Old Town San Diego Historic State Park is a fascinating piece of living history that offers visitors a glimpse into the past. The blacksmith shop and woodworking shop are in the restored Blackhawk Livery Stable building located on Mason Street.
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal — heating it and using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. Blacksmiths played a vital role in the settling of San Diego.
Records show that there were two blacksmiths at the Presidio in 1774, Felipe Romero from Guadalajara and José Manuel Arróyo. The work of the blacksmith was very diverse. Often they were repairing metal items the soldiers and settlers brought with them, traded for, or purchased. When raw metal was available, they forged tools, farm implements, hardware, cooking utensils, horseshoes, wagon wheels and other wagon parts such as springs.
An allied trade to the blacksmith was that of gunsmith. One of the first Filipinos to settle in Alta California was Antonio Miranda Rodriquez, a gunsmith born in Manila. He arrived from Mexico in 1783.
John I. Van Alst, a carriage maker and W.D. Brown, a blacksmith, were in business together in 1860 in San Diego. The blacksmith was often a part of the various trades coming together to create an industry in the 19th century.
The 1870 Census listed Benjamin Payson, a blacksmith, his wife, and two children living near the Seeley Stable. Living next door was Eben Brinley, a wheelwright.
John Hinton bought a part of the Casa de Bandini lot in 1868. The property had a livery stable, which may have once been the servant quarters for the Bandini residence. Hinton used the building as part of his Black Hawk Livery. Albert Seeley took it over by 1872 as part of his stagecoach business headquartered at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and depot.
The building was removed by the early 20th century and was reconstructed as a museum by California State Parks in 1974. It now houses blacksmith and woodworking shops. You may see these crafts practiced as they were in the 19th century.
While it is not certain where the blacksmith shop was located in the 1870s, a livery stable and stagecoach depot would have certainly required the services of blacksmiths, carpenters, wheelwrights, farriers, and harness makers to function. The blacksmithing and woodworking displays are recreated here to demonstrate the importance of such trades to the lives of the people of San Diego in the 1800s.
Hours – Daily, 10am – 5pm
Phone – (619) 220-5422
Address – 4057 Mason St, San Diego, CA 92110
Website – www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28009