Participants in a Victoria Mansion workshop last month work on preserving windows. Contributed / Victoria Mansion

As the need for trades workers trained in historic preservation increases, Victoria Mansion in Portland is starting to offer training for contractors and builders to learn skills specific to working on and maintaining historic homes.

The preservation trade workshops are also a way to recruit workers to help with repairs on the Victoria Mansion building, which was built between 1858 and 1860, said Executive Director Tim Brosnihan.

“We have a group of really wonderful and skilled tradespeople that help us work on this building, but when you put that up against the number of things that have to happen on this big and complicated building, (it’s a small group) compared to the task at hand,” he said.

“We’re cultivating relationships with people who might help us care for this building, but will also spill over to working on other historic buildings,” he said.

Despite more people being trained in the craft of historic preservation, the need for this work is still growing exponentially, he said.

Maintenance and other work on the Victoria Mansion in Portland, built between 1858 and 1860, requires tradespeople skilled in historic preservation. It has has launched training on those skills. Contributed / Victoria Mansion

According to a 2022 analysis by the Campaign for Historic Trades, more than 40% of all U.S. buildings were built at least 50 years ago. Each year, around 261,000 of these properties have rehabilitation projects that require experienced heritage trades workers.


“Folks who have historic buildings and are interested in taking care of them in a sensitive way and doing new works and repairs face a shortage of people trained to do preservation trades works,” Brosnihan said. “You often find yourself on long waiting lists to get work done on historic buildings of this kind.”

In April, Victoria Mansion offered a workshop series for five people with experience in building repairs to learn the specifics of historic window preservation. “People who participated got teaching offered for free, but we also compensated them for their time and work on the building,” Brosnihan said.

John Leeke has been doing preservation trades work at Victoria Mansion since 1989, and in more recent years has consulted with staff on historic maintenance and repairs. Leeke took on the role of teaching the trades workshops, sharing his expertise in woodworking and window preservation, with plans to teach more workshops in the future.

“There’s been a growing number of people in the last two or three decades” training in preservation work, Leeke said. “However, outstripping that growth is the need for this work to be done on homes.”

Leeke has been woodworking for 67 years, starting at age 10 in his father’s shop.

“Renovations of existing buildings are growing because new buildings cost so much, and it can cost less to renovate an old building,” he said.


But renovators will often completely replace things like windows and siding when doing repairs, he said, discarding the historic materials which may have been handcrafted.

Leeke said he sees a lot of houses that have had “nice old windows ripped out and thrown away, and replaced by vinyl windows that only last 10 years.” If they’re maintained every few years, he said, the old window can do its job for a long time and maintain the historic look of the building.

“(Preservation) work saves the historic material on the buildings, and that’s a part of our cultural heritage,” he said.

Victoria Mansion plans a future workshop on preserving exterior woodwork details, he said.

“We’re in the early stages of this and looking to put together something we can sustainably fund,” said Brosnihan. “The more we do, the stronger the benefit will be.”

To learn more or get involved, contact Tim Brosnihan at

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