img_2146During Chip Falcon’s Road Trip we visited Colonial Williamsburg, and you may have seen my slideshow of the doors and hardware there.  I received quite a few questions from readers about the hardware at CW, so I sent an email to the Architectural Research Department there and I got a return email from Mr. Kenneth Schwarz, whose title is Blacksmith, Master of the Shop.  Ken has been a wonderful source of information about the hardware at CW, and I’m looking forward to meeting him and hopefully getting a behind-the-scenes tour the next time I’m there.

In the meantime, here is Ken’s email response to some of the questions I forwarded to him:

“Our mission at Colonial Williamsburg is to restore the Historic Buildings that survive in Williamsburg, reconstruct those that are missing, and to recreate the character of the Colonial Capitol. Our Historic Trades Department has the additional mission of researching, and preserving the hand skills of the period, and employing those skills in the manufacture and maintenance of objects needed in the restoration and operation of the Historic Area.  All of this is done in support of our educational mission to teach the early history of the United States.

In the Anderson Blacksmith Shop we produce most of the ironware needed in the town – tools, household furnishings, agricultural implements, and hardware for buildings and vehicles. Our current project is the reconstruction of a coffeehouse to which we have contributed the nails, hinges, locks and latches, and other miscellaneous hardware. We do also have a brass foundry that produces any brass hardware necessary in the town.

img_2226In the past, Colonial Williamsburg purchased hardware from licensed manufacturers of reproduction hardware, but as our standards improved, modern manufacturers were not able to produce what we need.  Most of the historic hardware that we use is made in the blacksmith shop or foundry.

We do frequently make duplicate keys, along with new keys for new locks. As for salvaged items, we have an architectural fragments collection overseen by our department of collections. They have an extensive collection of construction materials collected from historic structures. We also have a department of archaeology that maintains a collection of historic objects that have been excavated in the town. Most of these old objects are used as study pieces, and they are reproduced for use. In that way, we are able to preserve the old objects, and allow the reproductions to be subjected to the wear and tear of everyday use.

As for security, we do have a department of security that oversees security and safety in the Historic Area, and the buildings are alarmed and monitored 24/7.

We do have periodic issues with modern codes in constructing and restoring historic structures.  In many cases this means compromising historic integrity to meet safety standards, or working with the City of Williamsburg to secure variances for our programming.

The book “Early American Wrought Iron” by Albert Sonn is perhaps the best work on early hardware. In addition there are a series of articles on early hardware authored by Donald Streeter and published by the Association of Preservation Technology in their magazine “The Bulletin”. If you have access to JSTOR, you can find those articles.”

cw-lockThere’s a great video about the hardware made by the CW Blacksmith Shop for a coffeehouse that is currently being rebuilt there.  You can access the video by going to the Coffeehouse Blog, finding the post called Coffeehouse Conversations 6 – Iron Works, and then following the instructions there.  The video is listed under “Coffeehouse” in the video library, and is called Charlton’s Coffeehouse – Iron Works.

If you’re a member of the Door & Hardware Institute and you’d like to read more about Ken and his work at CW, go to and download the article from the May 2007 issue of Door & Hardware Magazine called Hardware the Old-Fashioned Way, by Jess Madden.

With much appreciation to Mr. Kenneth Schwarz, Blacksmith, Master of the Shop, Colonial Williamsburg.

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