Blacksmith Larry Hagberg and his forge
There is a man working for the NYC Parks Department in Central Park whose profession many think has gone the way of the telegram. His name is Larry Hagberg. He’s a 61-year-old native of Queens and he has been a blacksmith since 1976.
Hagberg was kind enough to recently welcome us to his shop, which is part of the Parks Department’s larger 86th Street Shops.
NYC Parks Dept. – 86th St. Shops
It was a cloudy and slightly nippy day out and the first thing we noticed when we walked in was the glorious scent of hot fire on a cold day. It was, of course, the forge that gave off that aroma.
Entrance to the blacksmith shop
We also noticed the two big doors that looked like they were part of a stable. That’s because they were. His shop, actually the entire building, used to be stables, like the Clinton Park horse stables we recently visited.
The old stable doors
Hagberg worked on horse farms as a kid and got to know the blacksmith. He started his career as a horse-shoer (formally called a farrier). But when he heard about the opening in the Parks Department for a blacksmith, he jumped at it. He has loved his work ever since.
He works with two blacksmith helpers (he said that’s their actual title) assisting him. If you have metalwork in the five boroughs that needs fixing or replacing, he’s your man.
When we visited him, he was working on new fencing for Peter Detmold Park. It’s on the East Side just north of the United Nations and just west of the FDR Drive.
Larry at work
He could have made simple vertical bars, but felt they would look too much like a prison. So he was creating curved bars and showed off the template he created to make each one.
Larry at work with one of his blacksmith helpers
He works with no protection, such as a mask or gloves. He knows what he’s doing and gloves would decrease the grip he has on his tools.
Larry brings a hot piece of metal over to the vise.
But he does more than just metalwork repair and replacement. If the city comes across a lock that needs to be unlocked and the key is nowhere to be found, he can fix that. He said that’s child’s play.
Some of Larry’s other work
Hagberg won’t be reporting to work in Central Park for much longer. He’s taking his retirement this year. But that won’t mean the end of his blacksmithing. He’s building himself a home workshop so he can keep creating stuff, including items that are pure art with no practical purpose. He told us you have to “keep doing what your body wants you to.”
More of Larry’s other work and assorted objects
Check out this short film on Larry aired by PBS: