Walking along the waterfront, Greenport’s rich maritime history can be found nearly everywhere. From placards around Mitchell Park to the East End Seaport Museum, the story of Greenport is well-preserved throughout the village. However, as you make your way along First Street, once referred to as “bootleg alley,” history comes alive.
Inside The Village Blacksmith, you will find Tom Barry hammering away at his anvil. As the last true blacksmith shop on Long Island, the building represents over a century of Greenport history.
As you enter the wooden, one-room building, you are transported back to a simpler time. The building seen today is a replica of the original blacksmith shop, which stood in the same spot for nearly 150 years.
On weekends, those who find themselves walking into the Village Blacksmith have the chance to watch a live demonstration of the ancient trade. As Barry, a gifted storyteller as much as he is a blacksmith, places metal rods into the 2000-degree forge, he tells the tale of the Greenport Village blacksmith, Paul Nossolik.
“Paul the Blacksmith,” as he was commonly known, came to Greenport in 1923 to work at his cousin’s blacksmith shop. Blacksmithing — once instrumental to all industries worldwide — was an important trade for Greenport. In the early 20th century, the village was a fishing and maritime powerhouse. Nossolik made scallop dredges, clam rakes, anchors and boat hardware for the surrounding ships.
As technology advanced and welding grew in popularity, blacksmithing started to become obsolete. But by that point, Nossolik had already cemented himself as a North Fork treasure.
For over 70 years, Nossolik spent nine hours a day, six days a week as the last authentic blacksmith on Long Island. Although he no longer made boat hardware, his skill for forging beautiful ironworks was limitless. Whether it was handlebars for a child’s bike or a new railing for the church, Nossolik could fashion it out of heat and strips of metal. And the community loved him for it.
Nossolik retired in 1987 and the building stood empty until a 1992 nor’easter destroyed the already dilapidated structure. Otto Schoenstein, a Greenport legend in his own right for lending his talent in craftsmanship to numerous Greenport restoration projects, was good friends with Nossolik and proposed the idea to recreate the Village Blacksmith in Mitchell Park, which was receiving its own makeover at that time.
Nossolik passed away in 1994 before the restoration was finished. Five years later, Schoenstein and other volunteers, wanting Nossolik’s legacy to live on, found a 99-year-old barn ready for demolition in East Marion. They knew it would be the perfect place to house the new Village Blacksmith. The barn was placed on a trailer and brought to Greenport and, after a lot of TLC, it officially opened as a tourist destination.
Today, the Village Blacksmith runs as a part of the East End Seaport Museum. Barry continues the tradition, maintaining the shop as an authentic recreation of an early 20th-century blacksmith. The rich history of the building and “Paul the Blacksmith” lives on — the story told both by Barry himself as well as the gallery of photos and articles lining the walls.
You can bring a piece of history back home, as souvenir ironworks made in real-time are for sale in the shop.
You can find the Village Blacksmith on First Street in Greenport. It is open on weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round. Find more information about the Village Blacksmith at eastendseaport.org/village-blacksmith-shop.