ORLAND — Freshwater Stone and Brick has been carving a name for itself restoring stonework at sites of historical significance, including the Brooklyn Bridge and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as well as most of the bridges in Acadia National Park.
Now, the company is replacing a deteriorating granite base at the Statue of Liberty using Freshwater Pearl granite from Mosquito Mountain in its Frankfort quarry, said John Horton, Freshwater’s architectural stone manager. Freshwater Pearl is a speckled gray stone.
“Our stonework is going to be around for hundreds of years and viewed by millions of people,” Horton said.
Jeff Gammelin, who founded Freshwater Stone in 1976 with his wife, Candy, said, “It’s the kind of project that opens up new job opportunities. We’re making an effort to get into restoration stonework.”
Horton explained the project in detail.
“It’s a sandwich construction so the outside is granite, which is very close to our granite,” he said. “But on the inside wall there’s this local limestone that the whole Hudson Valley is made up of. The limestone doesn’t hold up very well, dissolving and disintegrating over time. So, they’re going to remove a lot of the limestone and then install our stone as a veneer.”
The first phase of the project is due by the beginning of July.
Complicating the project is the design of the statue’s base, which is the shape of an 11-point star — for defensive purposes. The structure on Liberty Island was originally used as a fort.
“It’s a complicated geometry to put together,” Horton said. There are over 1,000 pieces of stone of various sizes and angles. This will entail at least six or seven tractor-trailer loads of stone traveling from Maine to New York.
The crew in the Frankfort quarry are slicing off large slabs of stone, which are trucked across the Penobscot Narrows Bridge to Freshwater, where the slabs will be cut into blocks of various geometrical proportions.
The statue belongs to the National Park Service.
“France gifted us the Statue of Liberty not long after the Civil War and I guess the idea was that it symbolized liberty and hope and it was tied into the emancipation of the slaves,” the stone manager said.
The base sits on top of an 89-foot pedestal, according to a history of the statue. Francis Hopkinson Smith designed the base and got help from Alexandre Gustav Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Freshwater has been in business since 1976 and likely owes its longevity at least in part to paying attention to details.
To that end, the company is distressing the edges of the stone blocks — a feature the park service didn’t know to request. The edges will be distressed with torch and hammer.
“If they were to just put fresh-cut stone without distressed edges, it would look like a subway station,” explained Horton.
The work is pretty much a company wide effort and employs a variety of skill sets.
“Probably half the people that work here will touch the stone,” Gammelin said. There are projects for Freshwater’s skilled masons as well as the newer staff. Currently, Freshwater employs 58.
Speaking of staff, the company needs more. Call 469-6331 for more information.
Gammelin said working for Freshwater provides employees the opportunity, even at an entry level, to do meaningful work.
“You’re doing something that’s going to last a long time,” the owner said.
Freshwater continues to expand and invest in equipment.
“In the past three years we’ve made significant investments in our quarrying operations,” said Odeen. “We purchased a WORD Raptor line drill and a Sandvik Commando DC130 top hammer drill in 2021 along with an Atlas Copco DC30 Down the Hole drill in 2020. These investments allow us to significantly increase the amount we can extract in a year, take less time to setup/breakdown and are more environmentally friendly than our other drilling machines.
“The two new drills are twice as fast as the existing drills,” Odeen said. “This is in addition to a new wire saw and generator that since 2017 has increased our ability to wire saw quarry benches four times as fast as our prior wire saw.”
The Gammelins recently went to Europe, where Jeff purchased a new saw from a company in Toulouse, France. That saw is a Wires Engineering Easy 11 Plus Gantry.
“This is one of several pieces of equipment we are looking to purchase as part of a future expansion of our architectural division,” said Odeen.
The 46-year-old company has four divisions: the architectural stonework division, the stone construction division, the fabrication shop and the quarries.
Historical renovation projects require blending the old with the new as seamlessly as possible.
The company’s work in Acadia National Park has included stone restoration on the carriage trails in addition to the bridges. Freshwater has been denied access to run their quarry in Mount Desert, which the company says is the sole source for the pink granite needed for the park work.
The Mount Desert Planning Board denied an application for Freshwater and Harold MacQuinn Inc. for a license to resume quarrying for the pink stone in Hall Quarry. MacQuinn owns the quarry and leases it to Freshwater.
The board’s decision was 5-0 due to finding the quarry operation would “negatively impact the public health and general welfare of the surrounding residential neighborhood.”
Freshwater Manager Odeen said the company is appealing the decision. Bangor attorney Ed Bearor filed an appeal on behalf of Freshwater and MacQuinn on April 14.
“It’s a very small quarry, but it’s a very important source,” Gammelin said. “We use it on all the carriage trails and all the bridges.”
“That stone has gone into the White House,” Odeen added.
Other historically significant projects the company has done include the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture at the former Dallas County Courthouse in Texas; the Witherle Memorial Library in Castine and the Saint Louis Public Library in Missouri.