The UC Santa Cruz campus and much of the adjacent Pogonip land was originally part of Cowell Ranch. Henry Cowell bought the land in 1865 for its extensive lime and timber resources. Ranching operations ceased in 1964 but many of the buildings in use at the time still stand at the base of campus today.
During the Cowell lime-making and ranching time period, ranch blacksmiths were essential for fashioning horseshoes and wagon parts necessary for ranch operations to run smoothly. Cowell ranching operations were largely self-contained and the ranch blacksmith did the job to fashion or fix just about anything that was made out of metal.
By heating wrought iron or steel until it becomes pliable enough to shape, the blacksmith could then hammer, cut or bend the glowing hot metal with hand tools. At Cowell Ranch, the ranch blacksmith made stove parts, wagon parts, gate and barn door hinges, branding irons, horseshoes, and so forth.
The Cowells did not discard old tools and equipment. Everything was kept for possible re-use or for parts. In 2009 during grading for Ranch View Drive, a large supply of scrap metal was unearthed near the Blacksmith Shop.
Built sometime before 1910, the blacksmith shop was used as a ceramics studio during the early decades of the University. Part of the forge remains, but the chimney had to be removed following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
This piece is part of UCSC Lime Kilns Tour by Frank Perry on behalf of The Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.