The entrance to the Shelter Institute is just outside Wiscasset on Route 1. You’ve probably passed the entrance a thousand times, seen their post and beam sign with the rotating holiday decorations and thought, “I should stop in some time and take a look. And while you might not have been in yet, the Shelter Institute hosts people from all around the world. They come to attend workshops, buy woodworking tools, and order custom designed timber structures. The Shelter Institute has recently had attendees from Germany, Brazil, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Japan, Puerto Rico, South America and France. They’ve designed and built structures all around the US and the Caribbean.
While it has world reach, the Shelter Institute has Maine roots. Pat and Patsy Hennin started the business in 1974 in Bath, Maine. Originally in the space above Reny’s they later bought and renovated the building that now houses Brynes Irish Pub. Patsy remained very active in the business up until her death in 2006 and Pat is still highly involved. Their children, Blueberry Beeton and Gaius Hennin now run the majority of the day to day operations. Everyone in the family live nearby and enjoy all the outdoor opportunities that Maine has to offer, especially boating.
As the courses and structures became more popular they found they needed a larger site that would allow students to practice raising buildings and provide space to house their growing fabrication business. They knew they wanted to remain close to Bath and their regular customers, and they knew they wanted to be on Route 1 because of the great exposure to all the vehicles traveling back and forth regularly. In 2000 they bought 68 acres of land on Route 1 for their new location. The campus includes a retail store, classroom, and workshop.
All of the class offered by the Shelter Institute are approved for the GI Bill for Veterans and many institutions consider the classes job training opportunities. The Design Build Class is college accredited through the University of Maine Augusta. Shelter was founded on the idea of learning and teaching. Pat and Patsy believed in the importance of the individual having an understanding of the world in which they live; literally their home. As a commemoration to the passion for learning that Patsy Henning infused into the Shelter Institute, the family created a scholarship program for local high school and college students to help them attend trainings and gain skills. You can find out more information on their classes, tools, and scholarships by visiting their website, Facebook page or Instagram.
Or next time you’re driving by why not stop in and see everything they have to offer.
This article is part of a series produced by Friends of Wiscasset to highlight area businesses. This article was written by Saundra Neperud. Other stories in this series include:
- Miss Wiscasset’s Owner Says Midcoast Maine has been Good for his Family
- Who Doesn’t Love a Treasure Hunt