Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

Hands On: The PHMC Preservation Trades Apprenticeship Program

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by Joe Lauver

(Above:  Apprentices learning the basics of mortar removal and pointing from James Houston, the Preservation Field Services Supervisor at the apprentice training workshop at Daniel Boone Homestead (PHMC staff)

Just as rust (and rot) never sleeps, historic buildings rarely let those who are responsible for their preservation rest. The ultimate goal of preservation is to maintain a structure in such a way that only sacrificial elements (i.e. exterior paint, roofing, and mortar) ever get replaced. The ongoing task of performing this level of maintenance, and the additional work often necessary when it isn’t routinely done, requires special skills that are becoming harder to find in the general construction industry. In an effort to bolster the pool of preservation trades practitioners the PHMC started the Preservation Trades Apprenticeship Program in 2006. The program is a partnership between the PHMC, non-profit organizations that perform preservation trades, and private contractors from across the Commonwealth. 

All apprentices attend a three day training workshop held at Daniel Boone Homestead in early June to assure they are exposed to a broad base of fundamentals in historic preservation and gain hands on experience in various trades in addition to the training they will receive from their sponsors. Now in its 10th year, the program continues to attract a diverse group of people interested in learning preservation trades skills. This summer the following apprentices are working for 12 weeks with four sponsors to help preserve Pennsylvania’s architectural heritage.

Sponsor: Fairmount Park Conservancy – Philadelphia

Apprentice Alex Carroll working with the Fairmount Park Preservation Trust crew at Andalusia, a National Historic Landmark on the Delaware River in Bucks County (PHMC staff)

Apprentice Alex Carroll working with the Fairmount Park Preservation Trust crew at Andalusia, a National Historic Landmark on the Delaware River in Bucks County (PHMC staff)

Alex Carroll from Drexel Hill, is a carpentry major at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. Alex applied to apprentice at the Fairmount Park Conservancy hoping it would be a great opportunity to use his carpentry skills to do something a bit different. So far he has had an opportunity to work on some outstanding buildings and is enjoying learning the preservation trades.

Sponsor: Landis Valley Farm Museum / Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania – Lancaster County

Apprentice Austin Lesher working inside the smoke box of Pennsylvania Railroad Locomotive #460  which is under restoration in the restoration shop at the Railroad Museum Of Pennsylvania. (Allen Martin, PHMC)

Apprentice Austin Lesher working inside the smoke box of Pennsylvania Railroad Locomotive #460 which is under restoration in the restoration shop at the Railroad Museum Of Pennsylvania. (Allen Martin, PHMC)

Austin Lesher born in Hershey, spent the majority of his youth aboard a sailboat in the Caribbean and living in Mexico, Argentina, and Montana with his family. He moved back to central PA in 2011 and spent the next three years working in the stone fabrication business and learning the basics of metal fabrication before enrolling in Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology Metals Fabrication and Welding program. Austin is spending half of his apprenticeship at Landis Valley Farm Museum working in the tinsmith and blacksmith shops and the other half in the restoration shop at the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum restoring rolling stock.

Sponsor: The Country Homestead ( Frank Stroik) – Kremer, Juniata County

Apprentice Rick Kriebel works on applying the initial “scratch” coat on wood lath at the apprentice training workshop (PHMC staff)

Apprentice Rick Kriebel works on applying the initial “scratch” coat on wood lath at the apprentice training workshop (PHMC staff)

Rick Kriebel of Thornton, PA has a master’s degree in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. He wants to work with museum collections for a career and is looking forward to gaining hands on experience with historic materials, tools and craftsmanship during his apprentice time this summer.

Apprentice Amanda Asmus tries her hand at applying the finish coat during the apprentice training workshop (PHMC staff)

Apprentice Amanda Asmus tries her hand at applying the finish coat during the apprentice training workshop (PHMC staff)

Amanda  L. Asmus lives in Philadelphia where she enjoys interacting with makers and craftsman within all mediums to find ways to combine commercial intersections with hands on fine art appreciation.  She is classically trained in Decorative Arts History and 19th century material culture from the Smithsonian Institute in collaboration with the former Corcoran College of Art + Design.  She also has certificates with Georgetown University and Community College of Philadelphia in Building Science, New media and CRGIS. She has directed activities to revive the local chapter of the Victorian Society in America and is always seeking new members.  Active within ALHFAM and Public History groups look for her at historic sites and events.

Amanda and Rick are working with Frank Stroik the owner of the Country Homestead, a restoration building company with emphasis on traditional carpentry methods. They will spend the summer working on restoration projects throughout central Pennsylvania.

Sponsor: Daniel Boone Homestead – Birdsboro

Apprentice Tyler Walton applies paint to the Bertolet Bake House at Daniel Boone Homestead, Birdsboro (PHMC staff)

Apprentice Tyler Walton applies paint to the Bertolet Bake House at Daniel Boone Homestead, Birdsboro (PHMC staff)

Tyler  Walton from Parkesburg, Chester County is in the Wood Technology program at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology  and has worked in the past  at Charles Ginty Associates, a custom builder and cabinetry firm in Unionville. During his apprenticeship Tyler is working with the PHMC Preservation Field Services Crew based at Daniel Boone Homestead on projects at PHMC sites throughout the eastern part of the state.

 

Joe Lauver is a Preservation Construction Supervisor with the PHMC in Harrisburg. He has a BA in Historic Preservation from Roger Williams University and a background in the carpentry and cabinetry trades. Joe is a native of Dauphin County and is particularly interested in traditional carpentry methods and  the vernacular building types found throughout Pennsylvania.

Author: Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office occassionally asks our partners to share their news, successes, challenges, and perspectives on historic preservation matters in Pennsylvania.

3 Comments

  1. Joe:

    thanks for organizing and promoting the apprentice program. glad to see it has reached 10 years.

    Scott Doyle

  2. I’m interested in the apprenticeship in historic preservation. I’m a recent carpentry graduate and would like to use my skills towards historic preservation. If someone could notify me on how to get involved I’d greatly appreciate it.

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