He teaches history with a hammer.
Blacksmith Fred Christen is a big hit at Dallas Heritage Village, an immersive living history museum on the site of Old City Park, Dallas’ first park built in 1876.
Christen, 86, fires up the forge each morning the same way he’s been doing it for 30 years. He is just one of the people at Dallas Heritage Village who can tell you what life was like over 100 years ago. You may also see an Old West Gunfight on Main Street performed by the Trinity River Desperadoes or an old-time music jam session with banjos, fiddles and guitars.
The 13-acre village is a collection of more than 22 historic buildings and furnishings representing the period from 1840 to 1910, including a bank, store, saloon, schoolhouse, church, a farm with animals and a blacksmith shed. The Dallas Heritage Village mission is to collect, preserve and teach the history of Dallas and North Texas.
Christen makes and sells decorative items and also teaches blacksmithing as a two-day Frontier or one-day Pioneer class. Brock Mason, accompanied by his father, signed up for the Pioneer class and worked all day Saturday learning to heat iron and hammer it into the shape Christen had demonstrated. Mason, a high school student is a self-taught blacksmith using the barbecue pit in the back yard as a forge.
“I’ve been wanting to get professional opinion and learn how to do it the correct way,” said Mason.
Blacksmithing back in the 1800s required pumping the bellows all day while pounding red hot iron, so learning the trade at Dallas Heritage Village you can “expect a long heavy day,” because it is rather exhausting work. “Doing activities your shoulders do not normally do, so you have to expect it to be really hard,” said Christen.
After trying to keep up with Christen for a day how did Mason feel about blacksmithing? “Hopefully I’ll do it as a side job, something I can make money off of, but also love what I do.”
If you have too many irons in the fire this holiday season, you might want to take some time off to visit Christen and the other folks at Dallas Heritage Village. You just may learn some history while having enjoyed a stroll back in time. Popular annual events include the Old Fashioned Fourth, Front Porch Blue Grass Showdown, Dallas Jazz Age Sunday Social, History with a Twist and Candlelight, a signature December event. In addition to events they offer educational programs for preschoolers and teens as well as lectures and workshops.