SAN FRANCISCO – Walk through the door of Tony Rosellini’s blacksmith shop on Folsom Street and you’ve entered a bygone era of metal bending, grime and objects that, as the philosophers say, stand in relation to the world.
Rosellini, 81, was anxiously awaiting a steel delivery from nearby Oakland when we stopped by one sunny July day. “Where the hell are they?” he asked anxiously. “I came in early today for this damned shipment.”
Rosellini is the sole proprietor and tour guide of Klockars’ Blacksmith Shop in a section of this city near downturn known as South of Market Street, roughly halfway between The Embarcadero and our offices on 2nd Street. The building at 433 Folsom Street was designated by city fathers as Landmark 149 and is therefore protected from the wrecking ball that otherwise would have razed the place years ago.
The blacksmith shop reflects the manufacturing roots of a city and region that has long since moved beyond metal bending and hardware manufacturing to electronics and search engines.
In Tony’s shop, the grimy machine tools and the noisy stamping machine that has ruined his hearing over the years are a testament to a time when America made stuff. Now we struggle mightily to figure out how to bring manufacturing and jobs back to America.
Rosellini doesn’t own a cellphone, doesn’t give a damn about the Internet and wonders again what’s holding up that delivery from Oakland. He hasn’t had an actual order in weeks, but the last of the “smithies” still makes metal tongs, hooks and other tangible objects. He’s amazed that anyone would want to take pictures of the mess that is his workshop.
Still, Tony seems glad for the company and the chance to talk about the history of the place. He points out the old Klockars sign on the east side of the building that was exposed when the building next door was torn down and replaced by a PG&E compressed natural gas filling station. Tony recalls seeing old pictures of the circa 1912 blacksmith shop with little or nothing around it. Now it sits among office towers.
The steel delivery from Oakland still hadn’t arrived when we bid Tony a good day. He continued pacing in front of Klockars when we parted company. “Good luck,” he shouted.
Good luck to you, too, Tony.
Tony Rosellini, proprietor of Klockars' Blacksmith Shop in downtown San Francisco
George, great piece on one of my favorite SF landmarks!
Neighborhood note: Klockars sits on the shoulder of Rincon Hill, overlooking the Financial District. In the 1860s and '70s, the hill was home to the swankiest homes in SF (my great-great grandfather had a home on Folsom between 2nd and 3rd). City leaders, however, needed a more direct route for teamster traffic from the south, so they created the Second Street Cut two blocks west of his shop, excavating what is now 2nd Street through the richest neighborhood in town.
Needless to say, it didn't stay the richest neighborhood for long, as homeowners moved out toward Nob Hill. It became an industrial section in town for decades and only in the past 20-30 years has shifted back to a neighborhood that has both high-tech business and high-rent condos and apartments. What goes around comes around.
Thanks for sharing.