Craftsman's pride goes into laying bricks at stadium

August 11, 1991|By Jessamy Brown

For William Volckman, who has been laying bricks in Maryland buildings for 34 years, working on Baltimore's new baseball stadium is a dream come true.

"I always wanted to get on this job. It's going to be here for many a year. It'll be on TV all the time.

"I can tell my granddaughter, 'Hey, I helped build that,' " said Mr. Volckman, 61, of Columbia.

Roland "Bud" Slimmer Jr., a retired union bricklayer, knows firsthand what it's like to work on a building that's practically a city monument. He worked on Memorial Stadium four decades ago and said he feels a surge of pride every time he lays his eyes on it.

"I really had a lot of ties to the stadium. I hate to see it go. But the new one is going to be beautiful," said Mr. Slimmer, who laid the first three bricks for the new ballpark in February.

Most of the craftsmen on the project said that they feel fortunate to have been chosen to put in place the 580,000 bricks that will adorn the west facade of the new stadium.

"Before the project started, my phone was ringing all over the place" with bricklayers wanting to get on the job, said foreman Charles Smith of Baltimore Masonry Inc., the company in charge of the project.

"We take individual pride in our work, especially on this project," said Mr. Smith, who has been in the bricklaying business for 28 years.

"Baltimore is becoming more of a tourist city, and this is so close to the Inner Harbor. People from all over the country will be coming over here."

That sense of pride may be one reason the brick project, which accounts for about $1.2 million of the total stadium budget of $105.4 million, is running extraordinarily smoothly, Mr. Smith said.

"I don't have to keep after them," he said.

The bricks are a key element in giving the new stadium its much-touted old-fashioned feel.

A company in Williamsport created a special color, Camden blend, to work with bricks on the neighboring turn-of-the-century Baltimore and Ohio railroad warehouse and Camden Station, which is being restored to the way it appeared in 1867.

The stadium will have 32 arches, which will call for the use of about two-dozen brick shapes and a lot of attention to detail.

"It's been a challenge. You can't hide it if you mess up," said Mr. Smith.

"It's not just slapping mud on a brick and putting it in place. There's more to it than that."

It was a relative newcomer, Michael Foxwell, 22, an apprentice bricklayer who will complete the three-year training program in a few months, who was the most nonchalant about working on such a sought-after project.

"At first it was neat, but now it's getting to be a regular job," he said.

C. Edward Poarch II, business manager of the local bricklayers union, looked at the job from the broadest perspective.

"It is painstaking work. . . . We're only as good as the last corner that we built.

L "We felt the same way when we built the Pyramids," he added.

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