It was a chance encounter that led Daniel Lapidow to volunteer in the blacksmith shop at Washington Crossing Historic Park in the summer of 2012.
He was walking his Newfoundland through the park when a man came bounding out of the trailer that housed the Visitor Center at the time and asked to pet his dog.
They got to talking, and Daniel mentioned that he was a hobby blacksmith. Turned out, the Friends of Washington Crossing Park were actively searching for another volunteer blacksmith.
Two weeks later, Daniel found himself in the shop for his first day—and perhaps a bit over his head.
“I knew so little about blacksmithing then—I was only making S-hooks. I also didn’t like talking in front of crowds,” he says. “But history, and the Revolutionary War in particular, has always been one of my favorite subjects.”
A lot’s changed for Daniel over the last several years. He’s working as a professional blacksmith now. And talking to the groups of students that visit the blacksmith shop regularly has become one of his favorite parts of volunteering.
“There’s a 15-minute talk that I give that I’ve really got down,” Daniel says. “But more than anything, I just like seeing people’s reactions when I take a piece of steel and turn it into something cool.”
There was a day in 2018 when he needed to do that in a hurry.
Reenactors were preparing to fire a canon during the park’s annual Independence Day celebration when they realized one of the stabilizing wedges was missing.
Daniel ran out to the cannon to have a look, then ran back to the blacksmith shop and made a replacement in 15 minutes (see above photo).
“I loved it because it was something a blacksmith of that period actually would have done,” Daniel says. “And later that day, the soldiers toasted me.”