MILBRIDGE, ME — On a misty Monday morning, August 3, a tall yellow crane is suspending a new tiny house in mid-air while carpenters guide the building onto its cement foundation. Four years ago this tiny house was an idea sketched on a paper napkin. The idea grew and attracted support from four partner organizations, several sponsors, and many volunteers.
Partner organizations Downeast Community Partners (DCP) and Maine Seacoast Mission were already working together — with volunteers — through the Mission’s Housing Rehabilitation Program to make homes in Downeast Maine safe and warm through home repairs and home insulating.
Neither DCP nor the Mission had ever tackled a tiny house. But perhaps tiny houses could serve as a new way to provide safe, warm housing to the elderly, low-income individuals and families, and military Veterans?
Word reached Mission Housing Rehab Program Manager Scott Shaw that a Washington County disabled military Veteran named Ryan needed a place to live. Ryan’s situation was a perfect reason to build a tiny house.
Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Massachusetts, the third partner organization, offered to build and donate the house. Doing so would be a great hands-on opportunity for 9th and 10th graders supervised by Lead Teacher of House Carpentry William “Bill” Italiano, to build a real house, bottom to top.
Maine architect Jeri D.W. Spurling of Spurling Design offered to design the tiny house according to Ryan’s needs. Pro bono. Ryan also helped with financing and sweat equity.
The fourth partner organization, C.F. Adams Charitable Trust, agreed to fund the project which was dubbed by the partner groups the Downeast Maine Tiny House Project.
The Project was not without setbacks. Originally meant to be in Cherryfield, ME, a lot in a new Milbridge subdivision was ultimately chosen as the new location.
In December 2019, with the help of expert volunteers, a hole was dug, the foundation was poured. The septic system went in. A drilled well was added. Then all that was secured and protected against Maine’s harsh winter weather, awaiting arrival of the tiny house.
In March 2020, in reaction to Covid-19, the Downeast Maine Tiny House Project stopped. With the end of the house’s construction phase in sight, Assabet Valley HS closed, students and teachers were sent home. The school year ended. No one, including House Carpentry teacher Bill Italiano, was allowed into the school building.
Finally, in July, Bill Italiano was given permission to enter Assabet Valley H.S. to finish building the tiny house. With the help of a couple of local craftsmen, and also, Maine Seacoast Mission volunteer extraordinaire Lee Watrous from Connecticut, the tiny house was readied for transport to Milbridge.
Thursday, July 30, again with kind-hearted volunteer help, the tiny house in MA was shrink-wrapped, wheeled out of Assabet Valley HS, and placed on the back of a transporter. Scott Shaw from Maine drove to Massachusetts with the Mission’s box truck and filled it with tiny house appliances and other parts. Then, with a very welcome police escort, the three-vehicle caravan drove to the house lot in Milbridge.
On August 3, principals from Downeast Community Partners, Assabet Valley H.S, and Maine Seacoast Mission were on hand to place the Downeast Maine Tiny House on its foundation. Architect Jeri D.W. Spurling was there too. So was the new homeowner, Ryan.
A giant crane drove onto the house lot. Workers prepped the tiny house for lifting, wrapping a hoist under and around it. Then, very carefully, the crane engine revved, the house was raised a few feet off the transporter, while workers re-inspected everything.
Someone gave the okay. The engine revved again. The house was lifted higher. The crane operator swung the house, very carefully, over to and above its foundation.
Workmen instructed the crane operator to lower the house so two corners rested lightly on its foundation. Using their hands, workmen aligned the house perfectly. Then another okay signal. The crane operator fully lowered the house onto its foundation. What was once a tiny house napkin drawing was now a reality.
DCP Executive Director Mark Green said, “What a difference a strong partnership makes. This work would not have been possible without the expertise of Mission and DCP employees, the folks at Assabet Technical School, the many volunteers, and perhaps most importantly without the generosity of the C.F. Adams Foundation. Thank you so much to everyone!”
Bobbi Harris, DCP Housing Services Director agreed. “This project is a shining example of partnership and hopefully the continued future of building more Tiny Homes for our communities.”
“This project is a win-win,” said Scott Shaw. “It’s the first such project for the four partner organizations. We’re very excited about it.”
Learn more about Downeast Community Partners Home Repair programs and Maine Seacoast Mission’s Housing Rehabilitation Program.
Downeast ME Tiny House Arrives in Milbridge, ME
Crane for Lifting Tiny House Arrives
Crane Lifts Tiny House Onto Foundation
Attaching the Tiny House Overhangs
Visit the Downeast Maine Tiny House Project Blog for a complete list of sponsors, volunteers, and project updates.