In Their Fathers' Footsteps
Lloyd Russell and his two sons, Chad and Jason, are sitting outside the carpentry shop built by Jack, Lloyd's father, back in 1965, reminiscing. "Dad and this other fella," says Lloyd, "they went in the woods for about three weeks, every day. They chopped all this and rind it with an axe, this building here."They would, they decided, make windows - wooden, double hung windows in a wood frame of the type seen in many of the houses around Bonavista. Today, theyâre considered traditional windows, and the people who make them often find themselves using words like heritage, restoration and preservation. But back then, there was just one way of describing them - windows. Unfortunately for Jackâs business, just 10 years later, by 1975, new building methods had made their way to the island, and people began to favour aluminum and vinyl windows over wood. Itâs a story Lloyd knows well, for he lived it, working in the shop alongside his father as a boy. He was still a young man when he took over the shop from his father in 1975. Lloyd had learned how to make windows, but heâd also learned that the people of Bonavista no longer wanted handmade wooden windows. However, they still wanted a skilled and talented craftsman with a reputation for quality work. So Lloyd gave the people what they wanted, whether it was cabinets, general carpentry work or windows and trim. And, like his father, he brought his two sons, Chad and Jason, to work with him, instilling in them a commitment to quality work reinforced by lessons from their grandfather. It was, says Jason, his grandfather who first taught him how to make wooden windows using an assortment of hand tools when he was a young boy. He took those first lessons and turned them into a career working with wood, as did his brother Chad. âDad used to tell me to go get an education,â says Jason, âbut I liked following him around, chasing him around. I always wanted to be doing what he was doing. I still do love woodworking.â Thanks to a multi-million-dollar property restoration initiative in Bonavista, the younger Russells are once again working on wooden windows, now considered the heritage kind. Theyâre working in their grandfatherâs workshop making the same style of windows their grandfather made. Itâs not owned by the Russell family anymore, though; it was sold to Bonavista Creative to be used as a heritage woodworking shop, and Chad and Jason were hired as craftsmen. They do whatever woodworking is required in the restoration of historic properties owned by parent company Bonavista Living. Some days they may be building windows, other days they may be recreating other aspects of houses built in the 1800s, such as fireplace mantels. Bonavista Creative is a bustling heritage woodworking shop. âWeâre building cabinets here now, in the shop,â says Jason. âItâs a different kind of cabinet; itâs all flush frame.â One of their first jobs, actually, was building an addition to the back of the shop. Although purely functional - the shop needed room to store finished windows and raw lumber - the addition has a certain romantic quality to it. Aside from new clapboard and a coat of paint, there was very little done to the structure of the workshop. The original open rafters, the windows and the rest of the structure were kept intact. In Lloydâs time, he also built an addition onto the original shop, adding a garage-like space to the side that was used for a finishing area. It was, says Lloyd, originally meant to be an area for building coffins, but that plan died before the first coffin was built. While it's been expanded over the years, the carpentry shop retains some of its original features from 1965, including the open rafter-style ceilings. Wooden windows are once again being crafted in the Russells' carpentry shop. Before he retired, Lloyd was also involved in restoring the townâs built heritage. Heâs left his mark on many of the traditional and heritage buildings throughout Bonavista when he was working for the Bonavista Historic Townscapes Foundation. And so itâs come full circle now for the three Russells, who continue reminiscing outside the shop. Lloyd tells a story of how the handmade letters above the door were carefully brought down, painted and replaced. They trade stories about coming down to the shop as kids, both generations admitting that it wasnât until they started working for their fathers in the shop that they really got to know them. And then there are the stories of sawmills now gone, of hauling in trees from the woods and of work done around the town. Raising an arm, Jason slaps a hand against the building in the same way one man hugs another. Itâs good to see the building still being used, and it feels good to be working in it, he says. They may not own the building anymore, but theyâre rightful owners to the legacy of craftsmanship within its walls. - Story and photos by Tobias RomaniukTobias is editor of Home and Cabin, Downhomeâs sister publication. Read more about the Bonavista Creative workshop and how their heritage windows are made in the fall 2015 issue of Home and Cabin.