“If you’re not exposed to the trades, the spark doesn’t get lit, and you don’t know what you don’t know.”
–Mason Lord, Builder and Remodeler, Kent, Conn.
Mason Lord was introduced to craft by his neighbor. “My father died when I was in first grade, and I had a very kind neighbor, Mr. McNair,” he says. “I was eight or nine years old, and I made little pieces of furniture in Mr. McNair’s basement workshop. I think that’s where I caught the bug.”
After college, Lord worked for a remodeling business in his hometown of Baltimore for two years, then found a restoration apprentice program through the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Though low paying, it offered a great introduction to preservation work. He left a year later to go out on his own. His next break came through Eleanor Fitchen, who ran the Southeast Landmarks Preservation Society. She hired Lord to do a timber-frame repair on a 1790s church in Brewster, N.Y. It meant a lot to Lord for someone to have that amount of confidence in him. “People like that make such a difference in a career,” he says.
Many years later, Lord is celebrating 32 years in business at Hudson Valley Preservation, based in Kent, Conn. He and his business partner, Dave Seegers, employ seven people and emphasize energy efficiency alongside long-lasting craftsmanship. Lord is also excited about panelized buildings; he used panels built off-site from Unity Homes for his own house. The panels arrived the day before Tropical Storm Isaias hit New York in 2020. Says Lord, “Day one, they put up some panels. Day two, the storm hit, trees and wires were down everywhere, and they couldn’t get to the house. Even so, the house was fully put together and dried in, in eight days.”
Lord’s advice for craftspeople is simple: Learn business. He admits that not wanting to focus on the business side and instead just wanting “to do the work” once cost him a big project because he didn’t have the financials to prove that he was running a real business.
Lord is also focused on getting more folks into the trades. He’s a driving force behind Touch a Trade, a soon-to-be nonprofit organization whose mission is to contribute to the next generation of tradespeople. Touch a Trade hosted its first event last fall, where folks of all ages could try out tools and participate in trades-related activities. Says Lord, “I feel strongly about introducing kids to hands-on experiences they rarely get the opportunity to have these days.”
—Andrew Zoellner, executive director, Keep Craft Alive
From Fine Homebuilding #316