Age 28, Salem, OR
The son of missionaries, Erick Ellison was born and raised in Japan, and his initial interest in construction is tied to memories of Tokyo: “I would be biking down the road, and I’d stop to watch a building project,” recalls Ellison, who moved back to the United States as a teenager. Settling near extended family, his parents built a house in Minnesota, and Ellison worked on the project every chance he got, enjoying the tie with his heritage—his great-grandfather was a carpenter in Minnesota in the early 1900s. When he heard about the TOH casting call, he already had an associate’s degree in wilderness management and a B.A. from the University of Idaho in resource recreation, but he was looking for something more. “I was thinking I needed a skill I could use for a long time,” he says. “It was a long shot, but I was thrilled to make the cut.”
On the Brookline project, Ellison jumped into the demolition work, and found the process intriguing: “When we started doing demo, it was hard to even see where the project might go. The vision it takes to build something like that is incredible.” He removed a fireplace, put in a sill, learned foundation basics from TOH’s Tom Silva, and helped put in new floors, rafters, walls, and ceilings. “There are so many layers and so many skilled people involved—masons, electricians, carpenters, all the subs—and everyone has to work together,” says Ellison.
After the apprenticeship, Ellison—whose wife is from Oregon—headed back West, and now works in Salem, Oregon, for Kaufman Homes building custom homes and doing renovations. “I love remodeling, in particular, because you are never doing just one thing. There’s always something different, from framing to carpentry to restoration,” he says. “No matter how long I work in construction, these are skills I will have for the rest of my life.”