Mentoring Young Masons at the Speaker’s House
Trappe, Pennsylvania, USA – May 2009
AiP’s project at The Speaker’s House had a different format than usual, but all involved agreed it was a huge success. This project was open only to young people interested in pursuing masonry conservation as a career.
Andy deGruchy, a historic masonry specialist, is so concerned about the shortage of well-trained craftspeople in the field that he instigated, developed and led this project in association with Adventures in Preservation and The Speaker’s House.
Four trainees selected from a pool of applicants spent two weeks under the tutelage of Andy and two of his professional masons. While learning, they completed restoration work on the façade of the 18th century home of Frederick Muhlenberg, first Speaker of the House of Representatives. This was much-needed work that The Speaker’s House did not have sufficient funding to contract out.
The trainees learned how to prepare traditional lime mortar, match it to existing mortar and use it to repoint the original stonework. Work also involved removing non-historic white paint from the locally quarried red sandstone, a crucial step before repairing and repointing damaged mortared joints. The final task was to use a custom Lithomex blend to rebuild the lower half of a brownstone that was completely missing.
One trainee, a 23-year-old single father, entered the program hoping to learn a trade in the construction field. After two weeks steeped in history, he revised his goal to one day owning his own masonry restoration business. Another trainee was so exceptional that Andy hired him shortly after the project ended.
Based on this highly successful model, the Speaker’s House plans to develop additional hands-on training opportunities throughout the restoration process, promoting the dual goals of preservation and education while making their funding go further. The project was funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
Trainee Anya Gonzalez, from Puerto Rico, explained what impressed her most:
Being able to participate throughout the whole process of restoring the façade, from determining which mix of mortar to use to aging and blending it with the existing one, was great. Also, learning about the history of the house while seeing evidence on it is amazing and has made me appreciate the craftsmen & tradespeople involved in creating & preserving a house.
Phil Clark, a trainee from the area, said that he most liked –
That I got to do a little bit of everything and was able to ask questions about anything… Andy was a great help with showing me how and WHY we are doing what we are doing.