New York City has 8,250,000 people and 975,000 buildings.
It also has the only high school program in the country for hands-on masonry preservation, building conservation and green sustainable construction.
This blog offers a glimpse into that program.

The textbook developed from the curriculum and lessons: "Masonry History Integrity An Urban
Conservation Primer" is a free download at this web site:

The recent entries are in the LinkedIn Group: Masonry History Integrity & Urban Conservation.

Core Sessions #1-10

#1 Introduction
#2 Bricks and Mortar
#3 Measurements in Life
#4 Stone Repair
#5 Stone Carving
#6 Concrete & Cast Stone
#7 Plaster
#8 Terra Cotta
#9 Power Washing
#10 Stucco

Session #1 Introduction

· Outline semester's 10 training lessons
· Mr. Russack's Rules
· Expectations for hard work, knowledge, attitude
· What is masonry? Masonry preservation?
· Description and use of a mason's tools
· Work site safety
· Guild history
· Making a personal Guild crest
Explained the parts and use of a trowel and hammer
Described and practiced use of a spirit level
Defined the word “plumb” to determine vertical straightness
Defined masonry work as: “hard, dangerous, dirty and fun”
Discussed proper work attire, and its necessity for safety
Exhibited and demonstrated a scaffolding safety harness
Masonry and Preservation:
Explained with illustrations, the restoration of "The Speakers House Historic Site” in Trappe, PA done by restoration mason Andrew deGruchy, and the stone work/artistry of Mr. deGruchy’s home.

Discussed European Guilds emphasizing teamwork, unity, high standards of craftsmanship, personal integrity and the symbolism of Guild crests.

Students were given time to think about their expectations for the upcoming semester. They then wrote a paragraph about their expectations and designed or drew their own personal Guild Crest illustrating those goals.

Guildcrest of The Worshipful Masons of The City of London

Life Skills:
Students practiced writing and public speaking skills by sharing their goals and expectations for the year and by explaining the art work and meaning of their Guild crests.

Session #2 Bricks & Mortar

Brick manufacturing, ingredients and colors
Identify stretcher, header, rollock, soldier sailor, shine
Mortars ingredients and working characteristics:
Lime mortar, Natural and Portland cements
Safely erecting pipe staging
Stocking staging for masonry work
Mix mortars and examine properties of the mixes
Trowel practice by mortoring brick end joints
Identification of good and poor workmanship
Masonry and Preservation:
* A brief history of U.S. of mortars, methods and ingredients
* Terms- slaked lime, lime putty, hydraulic mortar, kilns
* Mortar ingredients (sand, lime, cement) and safe storage
* Students built pipe scaffolding, and stocked it for mason’s work
* Safety in handling, moving and working on staging.
* Learning and practicing to butter brick end joints

* 19th century transportation and canal building
* How lime mortars were made and used in the U.S.
* Natural cement mining in Rosendale New York.
* The invention and naming of Portland cement by Joseph Aspdin, in England.

*A discussion of poor construction practices and reviewing a building under construction near the Workshop/class room.
*The building Superintendent explained working safe, working clean and the rewards of better pay come from a good reputation, working hard, working smart and working clean.

· Telling students of a recent scaffolding accident/death focused their attention while they built and stocked the pipe staging.
· Having the students spend a moment at the end of a task to pause and observe their finished work to let them notice the change and appreciate what they accomplished.
· Think how one can improve not just buildings but the world by leaving it better than when you first arrived.

Sesson #3 Measurements in Life

* Mixing M-S-N-O-K” mortars to measured quantities
*psi - pound per square inch measures pressure
* Moh’s Scale of minerals, measures a stone's strength
* A construction site is like a battlefield
* The U.S. at war - measuring time via historic events
* Differentiate brownstone and faux brownstone/stucco
* Russack System - Masonry hardness measurements
* Helping others measures personal integrity
* Repointing brick mortar joints

Masonry and Preservation:
* Walked around the neighborhood to identify building stonework, masonry deterioration and poor repairs.
* Identified brickwork configurations - headers, soldier courses, Flemish bond.
* Identified the results of improper cleaning - acid burnt brick and stone.
* Showed a building stone cracked from the embedded metal's rusting, expanding and the consequences of water penetration then consecutive freeze/thaw cycles.
* Demonstration and practice of brick mortar joint re-pointing
* Outline of U.S. wars and their effect on us today.
* Using war as a measurement for time, world history, personal character and individual integrity.

* Safety/awareness on a construction site, for oneself and others.
* Providing a correlation between the countries that were once enemies in battle, but became allies in later conflicts.
*Recognition of Veterans Day.
*Knowing history means knowing how to remember.

· Watching the least interested student uses masonry tools to find his ability and became attentive, obedient, and changed.
· Current events via NY Times - Scotland's historic preservation training program is using a laser to measure buildings. Like something out of Star Trek, caught the student’s imagination.

Session #4 Stone Repair

Curriculum and Activities:
Identifying stone
Patching deteriorated stone

Masonry and Preservation:
How building stones deteriorate.
Using Cathedral Stone "Jahn" mortar to
patch limestone, brownstone, terra cotta

History and Integrity:
Winston Churchill
Led his country with the motto: “Never give up.”
Though Hitler threatened to conquer England the determination of one man, Winston Churchill, stopped the conquest.
He would go through the streets of London during WWII bombings chewing a cigar and waving his hand with a “V” for victory sign.
To be a good leader, you have to be a good follower.
Churchill would find relaxation from stress by building brick walls throughout the grounds of his home, Chartwell.

Session #5 Stone Carving

Curriculum and Activities:
Demonstration from stone carving professional
Chris Pellittieri
Students were taught and practiced drilling, splitting and carving stones

Masonry Preservation:
Vocabulary - "fracturing," "splitting," "shadow"
Stone working tools – pitch, punch, feather and wedge used safely to drill, split and carve stone
Chris spoke about his being from the neighborhood and his apprenticeship at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. It related to student's Guild studies.

Life Skills:
Chris said: “Its not about money. It’s about loving your work.”

At the start of class a few students were less than interested. But by the end of class they were actively participating and enjoying stone carving.

Session #6 Concrete & Cast Stone

Masonry Preservation Training:
· Concrete Ingredients - Cement, sand, gravel, water
· Tools - Trowels, edgers, floats (steel, sponge, rubber, bull)
· Procedures - Form, grade, mix, pour, tamp, screed, float, finish, edge

Students built a form, mixed, poured, floated and finished concrete.

History -Thomas Edison
· His life, inventions, work ethic and creativity
· Edison concrete was used to build the original Yankee Stadium.

Integrity-Edison, whose success is credited to hard work and determination, said:
"There is no substitute for hard work."

"The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work."

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

"Great ideas originate in the muscles."

Session #7 Plaster
Curriculum: Compostion of plaster and Gypsum
3 coat system: scratch, brown and finish
Safety precautions
Plasterer's Tools
Types of Lath
Examples of decorative work-rosettes
Scagliola and other finishes

Masonry Preservation: Making/repairing rosettes

Students used plaster of Paris and plastic take-out food containers to make their own rosettes.

Some rosettes broke.

Students repaired...

and painted them.

History and Integrity:
Teaching a tradition is most directly personified by the life work of Earl A. Barthé, (1923-2010) a master craftsman in the plastering trade. Mr. Barthé was called “the Jelly Roll Morton of plaster.” His work was included in exhibitions at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. He was recognized for a $20,000 National Heritage Fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005. He was a living example of the timelessness of a multi-generational skill, over 150 years old. Mr. Barthé’s great-great-grandfather started the family plastering business in 1850, and his son and a daughter will continue it.

Session #8 Terra Cotta

Curriculum and Activities:
Architectural terra cotta - It's definition, history, use, ingredients, manufacturing, installation, deterioration, preservation and reproduction.

Making terra cotta

The materials

Cleaning terra cotta to be duplicated

Applying release agent

Form prepared for making plaster mold

Mixing plaster

Pouring plaster into form

Removing terra cotta and plaster mold

Releasing terra cotta from plaster mold

Terra cotta released from mold

Preparing terra cotta "clay" dough

Pressing "clay" dough into mold

Clay released from mold resembles...

Original terra cotta in form

History and Integrity:

Following the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine (1898) at the onset of the Spanish American War, Lieutenant Andrew Summers Rowan was ordered to "Take a message to Garcia" to enlist General Garcia's support. He succeeded.

These are excerpts from Elbert Hubbard’s article, "Take a message to Garcia."

Without asking where is he? What does he look like? Who are his contacts? How do I get there he (Rowan) simply took the orders and did what he was asked to do.”

Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted. His kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let me go. He is wanted in every city, town, and village; in every office, shop store and factory. The world cries out for such. He is needed and needed badly, the man who can carry a message to Garcia.”

A class discussion followed on the characteristics of dependability, resourcefulness and ingenuity.

Session #9 Power Washing

Cleaning Masonry
Personal safety gear
Learning to safely operate a power washing machine
Spraying pressurized water to remove paint

Power washing with pressurized water and no chemicals

Safely removing paint from masonry

Finished results

History and Integrity:

* Butch OHare WWII fighter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient. How his story relates to "gansta-rap."

* Students took individual turns power washing/removing paint then taught one another to safely use the equipment.

Session #10 Stucco

Curriculum and Activity:
* History, composition and uses of stucco
* Word origin:"stukki"- meaning crust or coat
* Traditional 3-coat system with underlying lath
* In order: scratch, brown and finish coats
* Exterior use with Portland cement composition
*Students practiced mixing and application procedures,
* Leveling and depth measurements and
* Explored various finishing treatments

Preparing mortar to proper consistency

Using a hawk and trowel
to apply stucco to the wall

Leveling and smoothing stucco

History and Integrity:
The 92nd Infantry and Red Ball Express -
African-American heroes during WWII.

Len Bias and Sam Cooke
Tragedies in sports and the arts.