Community Masonry School needs help

8 mins read
William Ellis, an instructor with a professional engineering background, and Andrew Ryba work on “pointing” renovations at the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta.

AVON – Driving on the road to Rangeley some passengers may wonder what The Maine Masonry School is as they zip past the building with an iconic sign. If they took the time to stop they’d discover the country’s only private, non-profit masonry school. That’s right, the only one.

Chandler Ellis works on his brickwork at the Maine School of Masonry in Avon. Chandler is signed up to take the Historic Renovation and Preservation program in the fall.

Since 2005 hundreds of students have learned the fundamentals of laying brick and stonework from instructors who bring out the talents of individuals as they build different projects in the workshop or on location.

“They bring out a students creativity, giving us the freedom to express ourselves. Going there paves the way for a multitude of career opportunities,” said Chandler Ellis, who graduated in 2017.

Every year the school has been fighting an ongoing battle, as masonry is tragically becoming a lost skill, while the demand for masons is ironically incredibly high. But the school is making a difference as students become skilled craftspeople after a nine-month 1,200-hour certificate program and are placed in jobs every year or start their own business.

“The school gave me the knowledge and skill I needed to go into business. I learned so much about masonry and with each project my confidence grew. It’s a great school,” said Tyler Kachnovich, class of 2016 whose business is T&T Landscape and Masonry.

Andrew Ryba can offer his landscape clients stone and brickwork options for their properties because he successfully completed his nine-month program at the Maine school of Masonry.

When there is a need to add new material to the curriculum they have always been on the cutting edge. Just last year the school answered the need for Historic Preservation and Renovation with new program.

All across the country historic buildings are in need of renovation because there is a shortage of trained quality craftspeople to do the needed repairs and restoration work.

This unique Renovation and Preservation program has been extremely well received and the demand for space in the classes is high.

“Historic buildings surround us in New England but most people don’t realize there is a shortage in skilled craftspeople that can renovate and preserve these majestic monuments. Each building represents an important time in our history and needs to be preserved for future generations,” said Stephen Mitchell, Maine School of Masonry founder.

“Our classes give a new generation the skills needed to keep our history alive, as well as high paying jobs. Richard Irons, of Irons Masonry, has been an advisor for our program and on site specialist. With 38 years of experience under his belt working along side him gives our students instruction they can’t get anywhere else.”

Irons was awarded the Maine Historic Preservation Award in 1998 for “his excellence in historic restoration, his craftsmanship and dedication to the preservation of Maine’s irreplaceable architectural history.”

Richard Irons is the school’s Mason Consultant, with 38 years of experience. Here he’s working at the Kennebec Arsenal showing students the skills that have taken him a lifetime to learn.

In partnership with the owners of historic landmarks and with the state’s approval, these classes have already begun work on restoration and preservation projects at the Kennebec Arsenal, Fort Knox, The Old Wiscasset Jail and Rangeley’s Historical Society.

But there is an obstacle to overcome to successfully continue the program.

After 12 years, the school is in need of its own renovations to accommodate these new classes with upgrades to its facilities. In addition, last winter was brutal on the school’s buildings and vital repairs are needed.

With the new classes set to start this fall work needs to begin refitting the school immediately.

The school needs immediate help with donations to help with the school’s renovations for our new classes.
Materials can also be donated and are tax deductible.

Materials needed to upgrade the facilities for renovation/preservation classes include:

  • Insulation
  • Sheet rock
  • White paint
  • Wooden flooring
  • A new furnace or a new heating source (they really want to use a more clean energy source)
  • A mobile home (As students will be working on site at the locations listed above some historic locations are far from Avon and having a mobile home will save the classes the commute.)

Donated materials can be dropped off at the school any time.

Some students have already signed up for the fall classes, including Ellis, knowing once they’re trained in historic renovation and preservation they could earn over $75,000 per year.

“And they’ll be able to tell their grandchildren they took part in saving a piece of American’s history,” said Mitchell.

Key supporters of the school’s Historic Renovation and Preservation coursers include Richard Irons, Maine Preservation, Greater Portland Landmarks , Main Street 1 and Niemann Capital. The school can be reached at masonryschool@tds.net.

the school’s address is Maine School of Masonry 637 Rangeley Road Avon, ME 04966 and its website is https://masonryschool.org/

Andrew Ryba is a professional landscaper in Mass., who graduated from the school this year. Now he wants to take the Historic Renovation and Preservation course.
Tyler Garnett took a few building courses in Portland but wanted a more comprehensive program in masonry so he enrolled at the Maine School of Masonry and graduated this spring.
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