Filed Under Visual Arts

Decorative Iron Work

Keeping Up With the Times

As Scottsdale transitioned from a farm town to at metropolis, the demand for more traditional ironwork started to disappear. Using the skills he learned from blacksmith in Italy during his World War II service, a local blacksmith found a way to keep his family's business alive.

If you encounter, on your wanders through the Valley, any particularly ornate or captivating iron flourish--roses atop a gate, or a handrail shaped like a peacock--there is a very distinct possibility that Doc Cavalliere, blacksmith-turned-soldier-turned-craftsman, had a hand in it. George R. "Doc" Cavalliere returned from World War II with a skill that would renew the family blacksmith business and add to Scottsdale's flourishing arts and crafts movement: ironworking.

Doc spent his childhood learning the blacksmith trade from his father, shoeing horses, forging tools, and repairing field equipment for surrounding farms and ranches. He also shined shoes at the barber shop, cleaned the spittoon at Johnny Rose's Pool Hall, and worked at Sterling's Western Store (now Saba's Western Store), where he earned the moniker "Doc." When World War II began, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, became a Technical Sergeant, and served on the European front throughout the war. When he wasn't working, he visited neighboring villages. In Italy, he met a local blacksmith who taught him intricate ironwork, creating roses, flourishes, and other metal wonders.

When Doc was discharged in 1945 he took over the blacksmith shop. As Scottsdale's agricultural roots faded and cars began to replace horses, Doc began marketing his newfound skills at the shop. He quickly became well-known for his metalworks, gaining a reputation among Scottsdale's artists and elites. He did the ironwork for the sprawling McCune Mansion in Paradise Valley, and he provided works for master architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Gunsmoke actress Amanda Blake. Whenever Senator Barry Goldwater came into town, he had a project for Doc. The down-to-earth Scottsdale blacksmith was friend to some of Scottsdale's most illustrious artists and celebrities, but he wasn't the bragging type. You wouldn't find him at glamorous galas because he wasn't the hob-nobbing sort.

Doc was extraordinarily creative, the epitome of a self-made man. His ironwork adorned Scottsdale street signs, inns, and public spaces. He created the iconic western silhouette, based on famous local cowboy Harvey Noriega, that graced the official City of Scottsdale seal. Doc's ironworks, inspired by his deep love for his hometown and for Arizona, exemplify the simple, yet dramatic motifs that contribute to Scottsdale's western image.

Audio

Becoming a Craftsman The story of Doc Cavalliere, including the origins of the "Cowboy Silhouette" in Scottsdale, developed by Megan Keough, based on an interview with Joyce Eller; narrated by Joyce Eller. Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11. Source: Papago Salado Association/Story Tour Creator: Megan Keough Date: 2012

Images

Doc Cavalliere with ironwork
Doc Cavalliere with ironwork Doc poses with some of his reknowned ironworks in the background. He ran Cavalliere's Blacksmith Shop from 1945 until the 1980s, when he passed the business on to his son George Allen Cavalliere. . Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library.
George "Doc" Cavalliere
George "Doc" Cavalliere George "Doc" Cavalliere learned elaborate ironworking in Italy during World War II, a skill he brought back to his father's business. Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society.
Cavalliere's Blacksmith Shop
Cavalliere's Blacksmith Shop The Cavallieres' shop has watched the city grow up around it. We can see another Old Town institution, the Old Adobe Mission of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in the background. Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society.
Cavalliere's Blacksmith Shop
Cavalliere's Blacksmith Shop George S. Cavalliere, Doc's father, opened Cavalliere's Blacksmith Shop in 1910. At the time, Brown Avenue and Second Street were on the edge of town, where the noise wouldn't bother other residents. Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society.
Doc Cavalliere works at the forge
Doc Cavalliere works at the forge Doc Cavalliere did much of the elaborate ironwork in the Valley in the midcentury. Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library.
Cavalliere Blacksmith Shop parade float, 1960s
Cavalliere Blacksmith Shop parade float, 1960s Doc's wife Margery and son George at the Parada del Sol parade entrance on Scottsdale Road and Second Street. Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library.

Location

Metadata

Michelle Bickert and Stephanie McBride-Schreiner, “Decorative Iron Work,” Salt River Stories, accessed June 24, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/7.