Description of Historic Place
The Lacombe Blacksmith Shop was built sometime between 1902 and 1907. It is a simple, rectangular, gable-roofed building clad entirely in corrugated sheet metal. Its front facade is dominated by a large boomtown front with a central, double-wide sliding door flanked by a window and a regular doorway. The shop exhibits a high level of interior integrity and contains numerous original fixtures and blacksmithing artefacts. Some alterations have occurred over the years. The front sliding doors have been reinstated, after having been sealed and covered at some point. Also, in the mid-1950s, a large welding shop was added at the structure's rear. The blacksmith shop occupies one lot and is situated mid-block on 49 Street, which is Lacombe's former industrial district.
The heritage value of the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop lies in its representation of early twentieth century industrial development in small town Alberta. Blacksmithing was an essential trade during the settlement period, and blacksmith shops were an important industry in small towns.
During the settlement period, towns served as centralized distribution points where the people of the surrounding district could obtain goods and services essential to their livelihoods, health and well-being. To be viable, towns needed to offer a range of services, including trades and small industries, such as small manufactories, livery stables and blacksmith shops, to its hinterland population. Blacksmith shops were usually amongst the first businesses to establish themselves at town sites and at important junctions. From these shops farmers could have necessary metal implements made and repaired, obtain the services of a farrier and, in many instances, access some form of rudimentary veterinary assistance. These functions were all vitally important to early settlers who were located in relatively isolated regions and depended on animals, particularly horses, for transportation and economic well-being. Towns and other rural communities that boasted blacksmith shops and other light industrial services were well positioned for further development. Communities that did not provide these essential services lost visitors to neighbouring communities that could provide them. Despite their importance, these industrial operations were perceived by many as being fire risks and unattractive and they were typically located apart from the main commercial district. Blacksmith shops often became the nucleus of small industrial areas that were out of sight from most visitors, but still close enough to the main street to be convenient for those that required their services.
The Town of Lacombe grew around a Calgary and Edmonton Railway siding established in 1891. The community grew rapidly and by the turn of the century, distinct zones had begun to develop and an industrial area was established on Glass Street (now 49th Street). This street, which ran north from the main commercial block, was home to a livery stable, a hardware supply store, and a laundry. Between 1900 and 1905, these businesses were joined by this blacksmith shop, Lacombe's third. The shop is a simple, highly utilitarian wood-frame structure with a gable roof and a large boomtown front. The building's exterior, which is devoid of ornamentation, is clad in corrugated metal sheets, likely as a fire-prevention measure, and has minimal fenestration. The gable roof, which is supported by two posts, encloses a large open work area. While the exterior is simple, the blacksmith shop's interior is much more complex. Like most blacksmith shops, its work floor is divided into separate areas for general metal-working and horseshoeing. The shop's original forge is still present, as well as a large and small triphammer and many original vices, hammers, blocks, dies, anvils and various other tools, machinery and smithing and horseshoeing equipment. Its wooden walls and ceiling beams, most of which are blackened from years of exposure to soot and heat, also feature countless hooks, rings and rails for tools, securing horses and storage of metal. Branding marks and the carved initials of previous blacksmiths and customers also adorn the walls. Work tables and cabinetry, many with handwritten content labels are located around the work floor. Early in its history, the building went through a rapid succession of owners, but it was in continual use as a blacksmith shop until at least 1939, after which time it saw use as a welding shop and for general metal working trades until 1993.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1770)
Key elements that define the heritage value of the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop include its:
- rectangular, 7.6 metre by 12.8 metre (25' x 42') shape;
- gable roof;
- large, boom town front on the east facing side;
- exterior walls and roof clad in corrugated metal sheets;
- lack of any ornamentation demonstrating the utilitarian nature of the building;
- location on 49th Street, Lacombe's historic industrial block.
- large, open floor plan with a clear demarcation between the general work area and the
- original forge situated towards the rear of the building on the south side;
- presence of the numerous pieces of original equipment, machinery and tools including
two triphammers, anvils, vices and tongs;
- wooden walls and ceiling beams, blackened from exposure to soot and heat;
- interior walls covered mainly with boards of a variety of lengths and widths, patched in
places by plywood sheets;
- numerous hooks, rings and rails for tools, tying horses and storing pieces of metal;
- presence of built-in and moveable work tables and cabinetry, many with handwritten
- presence of initials carved into and branding marks burnt into walls;
- attic space accessible by ladder.