To the ancient Greeks, the wind had divine powers. The earliest documented weathervane depicted Triton, the messenger of the sea, and was built atop the Tower of the Winds in Athens. Vikings used bronze banners on their ships’ bows as one of the earliest navigation instruments.
Perhaps the most popular weathervane design, the rooster, goes back to ninth century Britain, when legend has it that the pope ordered every church to display a weather cock on its dome as a symbol of the Christian faith.
These days, weathervanes are generally used for decoration, not navigation. But Vincent and Leslie Esposito help to keep the ancient art form alive. The Espositos own Acadia Weathervanes and The Woodshop Cupolas Inc. in Trenton, where they build by hand cupolas and copper weathervanes.
Leslie grew up among the hand-wrought sculptures and the wooden lookouts that are part of the rural New England landscape.
Her father, Phil Alley, started crafting cupolas and selling them on his front lawn in the Bar Harbor village of Town Hill. Up until then, he had built mainly windows and doors for homes, but demand increased for these decorative features.
“He could make anything,” related Leslie, who began working with her father more than 30 years ago. “He decided if someone else could make weathervanes, he could make them too.”
Now 86, Alley has Alzheimer’s disease and no longer works in the shop, but Vincent and Leslie have preserved his work by using the same 70 designs that the craftsman created. The designs range from the traditional rooster, to a lobster boat, to an electric guitar and just about everything in between.
Vincent, who has been a metalworker for over 40 years, was recruited in 2000 to help his wife and father-in-law. During much of the work day, Vincent works as a welder for his son’s company, Esposito’s Welding & Fab in Surry. His afternoons are devoted to fabricating the cupolas and weathervanes.
He makes every weathervane by hand, without a mold. He uses Alley’s patterns and cuts the copper to the design’s specifications, and solders the pieces together.
For Vincent, Alley’s biplanes are the most difficult weathervanes to make.
“What my dad did when he designed those was actually go to the airport and he looked at planes, and took pictures from different angles,” Leslie recalled.
While Vincent makes the weathervanes, both he and Leslie create the bases and roofs for the cupolas. Each has their own signature that they put on every piece they complete.
“My dad said you should always do a good enough job that you’re proud to put your signature on it,” Leslie said.
Cupolas were originally invented as a ventilation system to cool off barns. The Espositos make the cupolas out of red and white cedar, pine and mahogany and all are topped with copper domes. They can be made square, hexagonal, octagonal and with windows.
Alley and the Espositos’ creations grace the roofs of homes and buildings all over Hancock County and beyond. You likely drive by one of their pieces every day. Their weathervanes and cupolas top the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce, the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Blueberry Hill Dairy Bar, among many others.
Vincent and Leslie take online orders, and she says that their weathervanes are in every state in the country. They also have been shipped to Japan and Ireland.
Vincent and Leslie work in the shop every day except Sundays. They don’t get much help from their other employee, black Lab mix, Daisy.
Their handcrafted weathervanes range in price from $150 to $395, depending on size and level of intricacy. Cupolas start at $175 and go up to $1,340. They also carry wind chimes and other outdoor decorations, including weathervanes from other vendors.