Henry “Hoppy” Hopkins III is a second generation silversmith. He’s also one of the last in a city where names like Stieff, Kirk and Schofield used to be known throughout the country as makers and maintainers of the silver trade. Some, like Stieff, remain only as words on the building the company once occupied.
“I’m the only one left in Baltimore City, that I’m aware of,” says Hopkins from the workbench of his shop hidden away in a 130-year-old carriage house in Mt. Vernon. “I’ve had a few apprentices, but they usually leave when they learn how much time they’ll have to spend in the buffing room.”
Hopkins has no shortage of work. Besides repairing and polishing, he makes trophies for some Maryland steeplechases and the Pimlico Special held on the eve of the Preakness Stakes.
Recently, he restored 154 trophies for the Gibson Island Club and, at the last minute, polished 1,175 pieces of their flatware. (Buffing room again.)
Additionally, he’s restored the Maryland State House silver, and made 36 sterling silver race buckles for the annual Old Dominion 100-Mile Run, a 24-hour foot race though the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia. In addition to working for history museums, Hopkins is currently restoring a large fire-damaged silver art piece in someone’s private collection, but he can’t elaborate.
“I can’t say who or what, but it’s so very rare,” Hopkins says.
In the studio, there’s three work benches for repair, soldering and annealing, or softening, the metal with flame and an acid bath. One turntable is used for truing or balancing things like candle holders.
Hopkins’ father, who passed away at 100 years old last year on Father’s Day, opened the studio in 1950, with the help of his father, Henry P. Hopkins Sr., a prominent Baltimore architect in the mid-1900s. (He oversaw the restoration of the Maryland State House in 1958.)
“Hoppy,” a MICA grad, started at the shop when he was 14 in 1972, and continues to service the city’s silver, including for many churches, temples and social clubs such as the Mt. Vernon Ladies Club and The Maryland Club. “So much beautiful and historic silver is right here, in this city. I couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else.”
This is part two in the twice-monthly photo series “What We Make Now,” highlighting Baltimore’s modern-day factories and industrial spaces where things are still made, with some guidance from the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Click here to view part one on Pure Chocolate by Jinji at Belvedere Square.
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