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School Aims to Rekindle Old Trades

The school represents a new kind of vocational program that provides training in antiquated styles of crafts such as masonry and carpentry. People skilled in the highly specialized trades increasingly are hard to find; meanwhile, demand for them is on the rise, Potterfield says.

“You wait to get them,” he says. “Then you pay a premium price. And the problem is they’re aging. The young ones are in their forties. There’s not a young up-and-coming crop to carry the skill.”

Katie Taylor with Historic Richmond Foundation, a partner in the project, agrees. “People call us all the time who are renovating their house and want to know who to call for the decorative arts,” she says.

The Lost Trades School is important to Richmond, Potterfield says, because of the tremendous stock of historic properties that need preserving. The school’s aim is to provide students with the skills to do historic preservation work and, in turn, provide the city with a greater labor force of traditional craftsmen.

The cottage has been sitting at North 2nd Street since it was uprooted from its Jackson Ward site because of construction surrounding the Third Street Bethel AME Church and the Richmond Convention Center. It will be moved Aug. 15 to 701 Chamberlayne Ave., on a parcel owned by developer Ron Stallings.

Just 10 days later on Aug. 25 a dozen students will begin spending several hours two nights a week doing “stabilization” work to the cottage, Potterfield says. The students — most of them recruited from vocational schools like Richmond Technical Center — will complete 40 hours of instruction by Chubby Garrett, a Richmonder and third-generation brick mason of national renown.

Brandon Walters