Carving out a niche: Stonemasons learn trade at Green-Wood

Carving out a niche: Stonemasons learn trade at Green-Wood
Chip off the old block: Green-Wood celebrated the graudation of its inaugural class of stonemasons on May 24.
Photo by Jason Speakman

Their future is carved in stone!

Green-Wood Cemetery turned a 19th century mausoleum into a classroom for 10 budding stonemasons, who labored for nearly three months repairing the more than 100-year-old crypt as part of a free training program to prepare students for the rigors of restoring historic structures to their former glory, according to the graveyard’s restoration chief.

“It required the finest kind of work,” said Neela Wickremesinghe, manager of restoration and preservation at Green-Wood Cemetery, who pulled double duty heading up the training program. “They were new to it and expected to do incredibly high-quality work, and they did.”

During a 10-week training course , students renovated the Miller Mausoleum, one of 700 above ground tombs in Green-Wood, and the single largest marble mausoleum in the cemetery.

The stonemasons-in-training — nine men and one woman — used various powered and traditional tools to chisel out what remained of the 1870-built crypt’s rotted joints, before filling in the space between the marble blocks with new mortar, while taking care to avoid damaging any of the historic stonework, Wickremesinge said.

“Being careful and taking your time is really important in this line of work,” Wickremesinghe said.

All students passed the hands-on course with flying colors, making them eligible for standard construction jobs along with lucrative gigs restoring historic buildings — a specialty for which experts are in demand, according to Wickremesinge.

“There’s a need for new professionals in the field,” she said. “They were able to gain a lot of knowledge and certifications that makes them very hirable.”

But the job is about more than a paycheck, according to one of Green-Wood’s graduates, who said it just felt good to do work that others would appreciate.

“It’s a very rewarding feeling to bring back a historic mausoleum,” said Brownsville native Reuben Stewart. “It has a lot of value to the family, but also the public. People come by and see it every day.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
The classroom: Green-Wood’s budding stonemasons labored to restore the Miller Mausoleum over 10 weeks of hands-on training.
Photo by Jason Speakman

More from Around New York