May 29, 2007 > Winsor Blacksmith Shop
Winsor Blacksmith Shop
By Karen Werkheiser Kolander, 2007 President of The Milpitas Historical Society
Bearing a striking resemblance to a simple lighthouse, the old water tank from the Winsor Blacksmith Shop stands in the shadows of the Calaveras Overpass just off Main Street on Winsor Street in Milpitas.
Originally from England, John Winsor settled in Iowa before making his way west. He was on a quest for gold, but decided to make this area his home and became a farmer. His property once included the site of the Ford plant, now The Great Mall.
Winsor's son, Edward, became an apprentice blacksmith in Warm Springs and even opened a shop there in 1898 before moving his family back to Milpitas and starting a blacksmith shop on nearby Carlo Street in 1912. His sons, Tom and George, joined in the business and it was called Winsor and Sons. Later, after the younger men took over, the name was changed to Winsor Brothers' Farm Implements.
The more current location on Main Street was built in 1926. It was one of several blacksmith shops in Milpitas at the time. Besides creating special tools to tame the solid adobe soil, making brands, and repairing farm equipment, the family made wooden flatbeds for the trucks that hauled produce. Their skills were almost legendary and farmers came from the Central Valley and Southern California to use their services.
Tom retired in the early 1960s and George auctioned off the equipment a short time later. The plain little white-washed building was used by various groups and then as storage for about forty years.
In 2006, the structure was demolished to make way for the new library. The water tank was saved and stored. Notices were published that the city was accepting bids for anyone wanting to acquire the building but there were no takers, not even for free. Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that the walls had once served as a place to test the brands that the Winsors created over the years. These boards were carefully scraped of their lead paint and preserved with the intent of displaying them in the new parking structure for the library. Volunteers have spent many hours researching the brands, matching them to ranches for which they were designed. It is an arduous task, but one worth the time and effort.
If you would like to learn more about the Winsor family, historic brands and Milpitas history or volunteer to help research, please contact The Milpitas Historical Society. We will be meeting at the Milpitas Community Library, Josephine Guerrero Room, at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13th. Meetings are not scheduled in July and August but will resume in September on the 2nd Wednesday of the month (September 12).
Special thanks to Steve Munzel and Mark Rogge.
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