THE BIRTH OF A CRAFTSMAN BY DANIEL WESTBROOK
You need to remember that in the day, 120 years ago, the west was settled, and really, the last untamed frontier was the Yukon Territory, and what is now known as Alaska. So, when the Klondike gold rush reached it’s fever pitch in 1898 thousands of people poured into Seattle, creating a boom town, and purchasing their outfits to travel North to the Klondike looking for gold. They traveled by boat to Skagway, and hiked the Chilkoot trail, over the continental divide, and down the other side, spreading out into the wilderness. Many people died, few got rich, and most left.
In the 1970’s I grew up in the Yukon wilderness, and it was as if history stood still. Sternwheelers still parked on the river banks, ghost towns, wilderness cabins, mines, trails and roads, still laying there, as if everyone just disappeared one day. They left behind equipment, stories, and a rich history that I became to know as a boy. A history, that is still with me today.
Now, where I grew up, on the banks of the Stewart river, there was a turn of the century sawmill. Of course it was all caved in, and the trees had taken over growing up through the middle of it, but you could still walk around in there. As I stood knee deep in 70 year old sawdust, I could see the wheels, belts, saw blades and even the steam engine that ran the whole place. There, still hung on the wall, were the mule harnesses ready to go. In that moment the layers of history pealed back. I could smell the grease, sawdust, and even the faint hint of baked bread coming from the cookhouse. I could see the men and women working, I heard them talking. I could see and hear the mules, I heard the whistle of the stern wheeler coming in for the next load of logs. I could see their clothes, and faces. I wanted to be working with them as I could feel the camaraderie of togetherness, as they carved out lives in the wilderness with their hands. In that instant they became my heroes. I realized then that I would be a craftsman, and that I would work with my hands, their gift to me is their legacy that spans time.
Today, I am the owner of Westbrook Restorations, which is founded on the legacy of four, old fashioned fundamental values, Respect, Hard Work, Trust, and Stewardship. Our primary focus is on renovating and restoring, historic homes and buildings, not only because working on these building requires a lot of experience. Sure, I’m a 3rd generation Master Carpenter, 3rd generation Remodel Contractor, and yah, I’ve got the shop, tools, equipment, experienced subs, and over 30 years experience. But really though, as I work on these buildings, I’m still, peeling back the layers of time, experiencing the stories of the trades people that came before me. I feel as though it is our responsibility to carry on today, the lessons of history they gave to all of us, a history my friends, that is Built To Withstand the test of time.
Still making SawDust,
Daniel James Westbrook