Best of Maryland: Catoctin Furnace Historic Building Trades Program with Silver Oak Academy

05/14/2019
By Preservation Maryland

The Catoctin Furnace Historic Building Trades Program in Western Maryland embodies the mythology of the phoenix as the symbol of rebirth and new life for both the historic buildings and the young people who take part in their preservation. Preservation Maryland is pleased to recognize the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society and Silver Oak Academy with The Phoenix Award at our annual Best of Maryland Awards this May.

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Submitted by the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society

Now in its seventh year, historic building trades are the centerpiece of Catoctin Furnace Historical Society’s Heritage at Work program in conjunction with Silver Oak Academy, a residential boarding school for at-risk teens overseen by the State of Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. These students learn valuable construction skills working alongside preservation  experts undertaking building rehabilitation and restoration. The program combines introductions to contemporary residential construction like electricity and plumbing with a thorough grounding in the early 19th-century through mid-20th-century house construction. Through demonstrations and site work,  students are exposed to a broad range of construction methods, including preserving and uncovering architectural details and recreating documented design elements. Students develop an understanding of building components and systems and learn to compare current technology and traditional tools and practices.

Celebrate with Catoctin: You are invited to celebrate the Catoctin Furnace Historic Building Trades Program and all of the remarkable awardees at the Preservation Maryland Best of Maryland Awards on Thursday, May 16, 2019 under the vintage neon lights of Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County! Tickets start at just $20 and include a spin on the historic Dentzel Carousel.

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The students at Silver Oak Academy are enrolled in a residential program in nearby Keymar, Maryland pursuing their high school diploma while gaining job skills. The Catoctin Furnace Historic Building Trades Program partners with Silver Oak Academy in this multi-year program. The skills gained by the students help position them to work in well-paying and important jobs in their communities. One-third of the buildings in Baltimore City are located within a historic district and thus can take advantage of preservation tax credits for restoration. However, there is a shortage of skilled crafters to undertake all aspects of restoration on these historic structures. The historic building trades program at Catoctin Furnace teaches students a love of history, building materials, and working with their hands to build, restore and preserve beautiful structures that are designed to last.

The historic houses in Catoctin Furnace are excellent examples of the workers houses from the early 19th century. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the village of Catoctin Furnace maintains many features of an early 19th century industrial village. The students are currently working on multiple restoration projects including the Museum of the Ironworker, the Log Collier’s House, and the Forgeman’s House. These buildings are ca. 1810-1830 and may represent worker houses built by enslaved labor in the village and within sight of the industrial complex. The village and houses have little changed over time. It provides a truly unique setting for restoration and preservation training at the highest level of craftsmanship.

Utilizing our success in curriculum development, we are hoping this program can be replicated throughout the state, providing hands on training in historic building trades. Such a program would teach time honored skills, ideas and values of fine craft through intensive hands-on training in historic building trades. Students gain marketable high-wage real world job skills that they can use to work in their community or begin their own business. Potential employers include contractors and institutions that specialize in preservation and conservation work, including historic millwork and interior finish carpentry. Job opportunities include diverse organizations and employers including non-profit museums such as historic house museums, preservation societies, educational programs, custom restoration companies, the National Park Service, and various private contractors throughout the United States. Graduates may also choose self-employment, specializing in preservation and restoration work.

At Catoctin Furnace, we believe that our historic building trades program is saving historic structures and saving young lives.

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