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January 19, 2006 7:15 AM CST

Masonry School Opens to Fill Gap in Avon


In an effort to preserve the masonry trade, Stephen Mitchell of Phillips opened his own masonry school - the Maine School of Masonry - on Sept. 7. A graduate of the Northern Maine Vocational Institute and once the owner of his own masonry contracting business, Mitchell founded the school in response to the industry's drastically decreasing number of masons entering the field each year.

Since May, Mitchell has devoted himself to renovating the former Lauri Toy Factory in Avon, the site for the school. The facility contains a traditional classroom, lab area, break room, office space, reception area and a storage garage to house various materials. In addition to the school's many amenities, the building also contains a bunkroom, with kitchen and bathing facilities.

The Maine School of Masonry offers a variety of courses, including brick, block and stonelaying, and chimney and fireplace construction. The courses are held over a 10-week period, two nights a week and on Saturdays. Each course consists of classroom instruction, a lab practice and a community project.

The plan's initial phase aims to keep the trade going by encouraging participation in the school's full-day program. Mitchell said that out of the 27 technical high schools in the state, only two of them have masonry programs. He visited those two schools, encouraging soon-to-be-graduates to participate in the day program to help further their skills and abilities.

Phase two of the program is geared toward educating the community. Mitchell will offer evening and Saturday programs for adults wishing to learn the skills to maintain their own properties, such as steps, chimneys and walls.

Finally, phase three of the program offers to teach church groups building skills for use on missionary work. This one-week course, which begins in February, provides groups of eight or less the opportunity to stay in the bunkhouse.

For more information on the Maine School of Masonry, call (207) 639-2392 or e-mail

About the Author

The Morning Sentinel is a seven-day morning daily newspaper published in Waterville, Maine. Read the Morning Sentinel online at


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