Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> NEWHALL
Tom Frew's Blacksmith Shop
Newhall, California


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T.M. Frew & Son Practical Horseshoers & General Blacksmithing. The current (2013) address is 24313 Main Street, Newhall.

Dating this photograph is a bit of a challenge. For starters, out of view, someone has hand-written the date, 1898, below a print of this image. 1898 is not the date of the photograph, but it might be the construction or remodeling date of this building.

There is a school of thought — we don't know its origin — that the building was two years old when Thomas McNaughton Frew II bought it in 1900 from property owner Jim Gulley. (Gulley operated a grocery store at Railroad Avenue and Market Street until 1906 when he sold it).

However, according to the Frew family's own story as told to Ruth Newhall (1996) here, Frew II bought the store from Gulley following the death of the town's original blacksmith, and we know from A.B. Perkins (1958) here that the original blacksmith was Sam Smith. (Note that Perkins says Frew bought the store directly from Smith, so someone is wrong about that.) We know from this photograph that Smith's blacksmith shop existed in the 1880s, and that it looked quite different from the shop Frew bought.

We can't state conclusively that Smith's shop stood in the same location in the 1880s, but it seems likeliest that 1898 was the date it was remodeled and expanded.

As for the photograph, we know it is no earlier than 1926, because that is when Spruce Street was paved.

To narrow it down, we must examine the chalkboard sign in front of the building. It's difficult to read, but with the help of our online readership, we've decided it says:

FRIDAY MAY 15
SCHOOL AUDITORIUM
PLAYGROUND BENEFIT
HARRY CAREY, TOM TYLER
HOOT GIBSON
BIG LOCAL PROLOGUE
STACY AND [illegible]
POWDER SMOKE RANGE

Let's take it line by line.

May 15 fell on a Friday in 1931, 1936 and 1942.

"School auditorium" refers to the K-8 Newhall School, which was built with an auditorium in 1928 at Walnut and 11th streets (its current location) after moving from what is now Lyons Avenue, just north of Newhall Avenue.

"Playground benefit." From Norman and Cynthia Harris (1998) here, we know Newhall's resident vaudevillian actor, Charley Mack, was planning to "give a big show as a benefit to purchase playground equipment for Newhall Elementary School" when he died in a car crash in January 1934. Apparently such an effort was under way.

Harry Carey, Tom Tyler and Hoot Gibson co-starred (with Guinn "Big Boy" Williams and Bob Steele) in the RKO Radio Picture, "Powdersmoke Range," which was shot in Newhall and released Sept. 27, 1935. If that's what we're dealing with here, then May 15 would have to be 1936.

We're not totally certain the 1928 Newhall School auditorium doubled as a movie theater, although there is some anecdotal evidence to that effect. It would have been the valley's only public movie theater. (The American Theater came along in 1941 as the valley's first "real" movie theater; after Newhall School and its auditorium burned down on Valentine's Day 1939, both were rebuilt, and the new school auditorium had a projection room and was used as a public movie theater until the American Theater opened about a year later.)

At the time, it would not have been unusual to couple a live performance ("Big Local Prologue") with a movie screening, especially for a community fundraiser.

What we suspect is that the film, "Powdersmoke Range," was shown in the Newhall School Auditorium, preceded by a live performance, to raise money for Newhall School playground equipment — and that the event was held May 15, 1936. Thus this advertisment — and the photograph — would have predated that by a few days or weeks.

Did we mention that Tom Frew II was on the Newhall School Board at the time?

One more thing.

In 1935, Spruce Street was widened, and many of the buildings were either relocated or pushed back from the roadway and remodeled. There is a widely held assumption that the remodeling happened concurrently with the widening in 1935.

Indeed, Tom Frew's blacksmith shop went from the wooden structure seen here to the 1930s-modern stucco structure that still stands in 2013.

But the remodeling of Frew's shop didn't happen in 1935, as previously thought. According to Los Angeles County Assessor records, it happened in 1936. It must have been right after this photo was shot.


AP1535: 19200 dpi jpeg from copy print.
TOM FREW FAMILY & BLACKSMITH SHOP

See Also:
Spruce Street, 8th to Market, West Side

Read: The Accidental Blacksmiths of Old Newhall.
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Sam Smith Blacksmith 1888

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Thomas M. Frew II

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Shop & Home ~1910

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Back of Blacksmith Shop 1920s

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Blacksmith Shop 1936

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July 4 Parade 1950

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July 4 Parade 1953

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Tom Frew IV 2003

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