• Wood working demonstration at St. Anselm expo

    The demonstration area at the Expo. Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

  • Indoor areana at St. Anselm College with contruction trades booths and people milling around

    The 2024 Old House and Barn Expo at St. Anselm College. Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

  • Instructor and intern at a table saw in a woodworking shop

    Arch Weathers from Arch Weathers Historic Sashworks in Andover with Spring Break intern Destiny Emery. Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

  • Three people looking at an old barn being lifted

    The interns learning about the mechanics of lifting the Sweat Morin Homestead barn in Sanford, ME . Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

During a weekend in mid-March, over 2,000 people flowed into the Thomas F. Sullivan Ice Arena at St. Anselm College in Goffstown. This wasn’t a hockey tournament, but rather New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s Old House and Barn Expo. In the past, this event had been considered a hallmark offering of the organization but had been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. The arena was abuzz with artists and craftspeople displaying their creations, vendors discussing home restoration strategies with troubleshooting homeowners, and inquisitive onlookers gathering around exhibitors as they demonstrated trade techniques from wood turning to upholstering. In the neighboring dining hall, preservation themed workshops drew in full audiences.

There was palpable enthusiasm for the return of the Expo, accentuated by some fresh additions to this year’s event. The Expo’s re-tuning included a focus on trades education and workforce development that was woven throughout the programming. This theme was very intentional, arising from the host organization’s explicit recognition that they cannot do their job of saving historic places and fostering widespread appreciation for older buildings if there are not enough professionals available to provide specialized knowledge and actually do building restoration work.

Starting in 2021, New Hampshire Preservation Alliance partnered with three other statewide preservation nonprofits (the Preservation League of New York State, Preservation Trust of Vermont, and Maine Preservation) to form the Northeast Regional Initiative for the Preservation Trades. In 2022, the partners welcomed members of UNH Cooperative Extension’s Community and Economic Development team as their research collaborators on a mixed-methods study investigating the present status of preservation trades in the Northeast and ways to create a stronger workforce of trades professionals.

Instructor and intern standing with a wooden window sash in a woodworking shop

Intern Destiny Emery displaying her window sash work with mentor Arch Weathers. Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Preservation Alliance

The final research report was released in early 2023. Since then, the organizations have been using this data to develop strategies for increasing awareness of preservation trades careers and offering opportunities for people of all ages to experience what this work is like. At the Expo, student groups were offered free tickets and attendees reported that the event took on a more “family-friendly” feel than in past iterations. The UNH Extension team was excited to participate and see their research coalesce into action. At the NH Preservation Alliance booth, Community and Economic Development Field Specialist Scott Slattery chatted with attendees about the study’s findings and distributed an informational poster and a flyer that highlighted compelling statistics, such as the finding that 96% of preservation tradespeople report satisfaction with their careers. Meanwhile, Field Specialist Jada Lindblom facilitated a panel discussion with three professionals at different stages of their careers on the topic of finding passion in preservation trades and traditional crafts. This talk was followed by career exploration roundtables, sparking engaged conversations between seasoned professionals and young adult attendees. In the expo hall, attendees could talk with professionals and students from the Timber Framers Guild, Guild of NH Woodworkers, North Bennet Street School, and Heartwood School, among other exhibitors.

Instructor and two interns discussing architectural drawings in a woodworking shop.

Creed Ebba and Phoebe Cunningham reviewing architectural plans with mentor Arron Sturgis. Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

The Old House and Barn Expo was just one of many workforce development strategies that New Hampshire Preservation Alliance has in its pipeline, made possible by support from the NH Community Development Finance Authority, Bank of New Hampshire, and individuals and businesses across the state. Just weeks after the Expo, the Alliance launched a new offering aimed at high school students: Spring Break Mini-Internships. Through this program, New Hampshire students can spend their April school vacation week shadowing a trades professional at either Arch Weathers Historic Sashworks or Preservation Timber Framing. These companies and their respective professional organizations (the Window Preservation Alliance and Timber Framers Guild) have been valued partners of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance and aim to proactively increase awareness of their trades. In this pilot year, the Alliance ended up placing three spring break interns, and they hope to grow the program in future years.

Two of these interns were matched with Arron Sturgis of Preservation Timber Framing, who works in both New Hampshire and Maine and currently serves on the NH Preservation Alliance board. During this alternative spring break, the students experienced a variety of work at sites across the region, including Preservation Timber Framing’s shop in Nottingham, the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, ME, and the Sweat Morin Homestead in Sanford, ME. At the latter, a historic barn was being lifted off the ground to enable restoration work overseen by the Mousam Way Land Trust – an impressive sight, and an undertaking that requires many specialized sets of knowledge.

Three people standing in front of an old building being lifted for repairs below grade

NH Preservation Alliance Spring Break Interns Creed Ebba and Phoebe Cunningham with Arron Sturgis from Preservation Timber Framing, April 23, 2024. Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

Jada Lindblom, who in addition to her Extension work recently joined the NH Preservation Alliance board, stopped by the Sanford work site to see the internship in action. Analyzing the preservation trades research data, one theme that had caught Jada’s attention was the diversity of educational backgrounds, personal interests, and experiences that lead preservation tradespeople to their careers. The two student interns provided further indication of how a wide variety of interests can bring people to the preservation trades. For Phoebe Cunningham, a 10th grader from Windham, this mini-internship was a unique complement to her interests in theater and desire to learn carpentry for set design. For Creed Ebba, a 9th grade homeschooler from Barrington, the opportunity was well-timed to a project he has in the works to build a small log cabin. Phoebe’s goals for the week were to “get a basic understanding, learn about the industry, and have fun.” Similarly, Creed hoped to leave the internship with a better general understanding about timber framing, both “how it works and how it is applied.”

Their mentor, Arron Sturgis, has been a key figure in helping the NH Preservation Alliance kick-start internship offerings and will be co-hosting an intern with the Preservation Alliance this summer. Speaking with Arron about why he has continued to champion these efforts, he emphasizes how vital “emergent learning through internships” is to trades workforce development. He hopes to see a lot more of this sort of thing happening in New Hampshire and beyond.

For the Community and Economic Development team at UNH Extension, it has been inspiring to see how the topic area of preservation trades workforce development has evolved with the NH Preservation Alliance from an area of general interest to a research project, and now to a top strategic priority with a number of ambitious statewide actions already underway. “We are excited about using the research to test varied pilots and see how we can best make a difference with this pressing trades gap,” said Jennifer Goodman, Executive Director of the Preservation Alliance. “We are so fortunate to have great partners and mentors committed bringing on a new generation and so many wonderful and irreplaceable homes, barns, Main Street buildings and other community landmarks that need the skilled work.”


Community & Economic Development, Belknap County
Associate Field Specialist
Phone: 603-527-5475
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824

Hillsborough County
Extension Field Specialist, Community & Economic Development
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension Community & Economic Development, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824

Sullivan County
Extension Field Specialist, Community Development
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension Community & Economic Development, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824