Blacksmith Shop: Guiding Themes and Goals

To benefit Volunteers-in-Parks working in (or interested in working in) the Blacksmith Shop, the following pages represent an online Operations and Resource Guide to inform and support the volunteer experience.


The Blacksmith Shop is an integral part of reconstructed Fort Vancouver, which itself is an integral part of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. As one of just over 400 sites nationwide that Congress has designated as significant enough for to include in the National Park System, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). To work in the Blacksmith Shop, one must be either an NPS employee or enrolled as a Volunteer-in-Parks (VIP) at Fort Vancouver NHS.

Park Purpose

Congress established Fort Vancouver as a unit of the National Park System in 1948. As interpreted through enabling legislation, the purpose of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is to preserve and interpret the following:

  • The site of the nineteenth century Hudson's Bay Company's activities;
  • Settlement of the Oregon Territory;
  • The establishment of the U.S. Army's Vancouver Barracks

Park Significance

Through NPS staff workshops and public meetings, the significance of Fort Vancouver NHS has been determined to be the following:

  • From 1825 through 1849 Fort Vancouver was the site of the Hudson's Bay Company's administrative headquarters and supply depot west of the Rocky Mountains. As a result, the HBC greatly influenced the economic, political, and cultural development of the Pacific Northwest.
  • Fort Vancouver was the Pacific Northwest center for fur trade and other commerce, agriculture, and industry between 1825 and 1849.
  • Fort Vancouver was the first terminus of the Oregon Trail (water route along the Columbia River).
  • Vancouver Barracks, established in 1849, was the first military post developed in the Pacific Northwest. It served as headquarters for the U.S. Army operations into the twentieth century.
  • Fort Vancouver NHS contains extensive archaeological resources, both in situ (in original location) and recovered, that provide important information about the physical relationships and the cultural and economic operation of the Hudson's Bay Company and the U.S. Army.

Goals of the Blacksmith Shop Operation

The goals of the blacksmith shop operation are to:

  • help visitors understand the people and function of the fort's Blacksmith Shop, and its connection to the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver;
  • help visitors develop a personal understanding of the national significance of the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver; and to
  • help foster an understanding of this national park as a unit of the national park system and a public resource worth preserving in perpetuity.

In the Blacksmith Shop, we strive to achieve these goals by helping the visitor understand the roles of the fort's skilled laborers, the work they performed, and how their work contributed to the operation of Fort Vancouver and the HBC in the Pacific Northwest.

More specifically, we provide the visitor with an understanding of nineteenth century British blacksmithing skills (circa 1825-1846) as practiced by the Hudson's Bay Company and the importance of the blacksmith in the industrialization of the Pacific Northwest.

Volunteers are absolutely essential to the visitor experience at the Blacksmith Shop. It is through volunteer interpretive presentations, cultural demonstrations, and living history activities that visitors experience accurate interpretive services on a regular, on-going basis.

To ensure that visitors are best able to connect to the site and its significance, a Blacksmith Shop Apprentice Program is under development, through the collaboration of park staff and Blacksmith Shop volunteers working through the Trades Guild. This program defines specific competencies and requirements to ensure a safe, valid, accurate, and in-depth visitor experience.

To help make the visitor experience as accurate as possible, all shop work is to be focused solely on activities conducted by the Blacksmiths working in the shop on the behalf of the Hudson's Bay Company during the fur trade era. Any activity that departs from a representation of the shop activities detracts from this focus and is not allowed. If volunteers have a question about the appropriateness of an activity, please contact a Volunteer Certified Trainer or an NPS staff member.

Blacksmith Shop volunteers can review approved projects in the Blacksmith projects manuals located in the cabinet in the southwest corner of the shop.

Last updated: May 21, 2014

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Mailing Address:

612 E Reserve St
Vancouver , WA 98661


(360) 816-6230

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