Hotz Blacksmith Shop

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Mike Hotz and a friend came to Richfield in 1878. They went to work at Killiffer’s Blacksmith Shop. Some years later Mike built his own shop. …That was later to cause some confusion for various of Richfield’s officialdom. When Mike put out his eye by a stray hot spark, he closed his business in the early 1930’s and sold his tools at auction. The building stood empty until the war.

Following WW2, Mel Knopp, who had received grievious wounds fighting imperial japan, returned from the Pacific and bought the then empty building. He had it moved it from its original site on 303 to across the yard to stand next to the “Old” Township Hall on Broadview Rd. Mel remodeled the building, covering every inch of the walls, ceiling and floors with plywood (which served as an excellant way to preserve the hidden blacksmith shop within.) The building then became a quack doctors office, then Dorsey Arnold’s CPA business, followed by the original location of Eastwood’s Dry Goods, then the Amvet’s Bar. By the time the building went empty again (and became what some in town considered an eye sore) the building’s history was lost to the folks who were running things. The town movers just wanted to tear the building down because it was thought to have no interest or value. Fortunately, a 1930’s picture of the shop resurfaced. And history was revealed. That lead to the building being saved and its move to its third “home” at The Museum on Southern Rd.

The Hotz Blacksmith actually has had a rather interesting history. When you compare the few extant photos of Killiffer’s with the still standing Hotz’s, they look virtually identical. (Killiffers is long since gone. It had become a run down and finally empty gas station. It was then “removed from the scene for the betterment of Richfield” in an afternoons somewhat alcohol fueled excess. -One of towns somewhat commonly inebriated “charactors” took to driving a handy piece of equipment thru the front door.) No one knows why Mike choose to work at Killiffer’s, then build such a similar building virtually next door and go into the same business. It may have been admiration for Killiffer’s way of doing things, or it may have been “I’ll show ya”. Don’t know.

Unfortunately, until the photo was uncovered, no one thought to ask the few remaining elders what the (Amvet’s) building originally looked like. When the building had been moved from 303 to 176, the front had became the back, and the back became the new front. Mel had then removed the former rear wall and installed plate glass windows. With the removed siding he built a false front to disguise the roof line. He also removed the original front facing double doors and divided the space into two doorways, one leading to a ladies convenience and the other to a stairs into the new basement. Mel finally paneled the whole interior. All the “coverup” lead later folks to believe that the empty Amvet’s bar was just that, nothing more than an eyesore empty bar. …Not so. (This episode being a good example of the importance of keeping good written and photographic histories of a towns daily life.)

When the Museum’s curator received permission to save and move the building (thereby saving the village the expense of destruction and removal), he began by pulling up the wall to wall carpeting and the underlying plywood. Thus the original tongue and groove planking was revealed. The horse shoe made dents and marks are still visible and the burn marks from the hot metal being worked on Mike’s anvil are plainly seen. There are chisel marks made in order to level the floor where the anvil stood, and an arc of burn marks around the anvil, showing Mike must have been right handed.

When Jim removed the wall coverings, the original boards were/are still covered by coal dust from the forge. And written in chalk on the walls was/is “Horses shod at owners risk” and “Pay by cash only”. The ceiling joists still were lined with rows of nails. And the rows were numbered with the sizes of the horse shoes that hung there. There was even the discovery of a trapdoor that opened into the attic, and the pulley and rope, that was used to load hay into the above space, still hung (Mike apparently kept some hay to gentle the horses as they stood waiting to be shod.) And between the windows can still be seen the marks made by the tie rings where the horse were tied as the waited their turn at shoeing. There is even plainly seen the remains of the wooden rack that confined those few horses that would not properly stand to tie, while they were being worked on.

more to follow…

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