New stone blends with old Hampstead church gets masons' touch NORTH -- Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

October 08, 1992|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,Contributing Writer

Since summer, St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Main Street in Hampstead has been swarming with machines and men. They've been building a twin to the quaint stone church.

It has been needed for a while.

"Even for a baptism, we would overflow," said Pastor John Smaligo.

He's excited that additional seating for 60 and full classrooms are being added.

It's not an unsightly twin. Ensuring that the new blends with the old is probably the most visible task at St. Mark's. Stonemasons have skillfully copied the granite facade facing Main Street and the brick exterior behind it.

St. Mark's was a brick church until stonemason George W. M. Shaffer contributed his time and skill in applying the facade in 1941. A plaque inside the church remembers him as "builder, member, friend."

Last week, the stone facing that Mr. Shaffer applied to the church lay at stoneworker Tim Thompson's feet.

It was saved during construction for the new facade.

Stonework, Mr. Thompson said, is a skill "you just pick up." He was teamed with Todd Ash, whose father was a notable stonemason, too.

Sweeping granite chips the size of his hand away from a block cut square, Mr. Thompson said the stones were quarried in Delta, Pa. The chips were gray, with fine ribbons of black.

Stoneworkers build the way ants do, one block at a time. Mr. Ash, on the scaffold, calls out a size. Mr. Thompson, standing in stone, selects the next piece. Each block is measured and chiseled to fit, a precise artistry in cubes.

"The pattern is Ashlar," said Mr. Thompson, peering through gritty eyeglasses at the facade, "or one up and two down. Like that in Europe, I guess."

Is there personality to be seen in stonework?

"Sometimes, I can tell what man did the job," said Mr. Thompson, watching Mr. Ash's hands against the sky, nestling another stone in place.

Then Mr. Ash calls out, and Mr. Thompson waves his ruler.

Like many stoneworkers, he said, he has a college education. Stonework pays well.

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