Author Archives: Boom Visibility

Egyptian Pyramids

The Oldest Building Techniques are Also Best for the Environment

The Great Pyramids in Giza, Egypt were built about 4,500 years ago, but they’re still standing tall and strong.

Like many older buildings, the pyramids were built to last as long as possible, but today, that isn’t always our biggest priority. However, it should be! In addition to saving time and money, building structures with longevity in mind is easier on the environment.

Masonry is an environmentally-friendly method for building. Building with brick and stone is one of the oldest building techniques there is, yet the durability makes it excellent for reducing environmental impact.

A Long-Lasting Material

Masonry’s durability results in a low annual environmental impact that improves over time. To begin with, shipping the materials typically requires less fuel. Since the materials are heavy, there are manufacturing plants near most major cities.

When you think about sustainability, you have to think long-term, which means considering what happens to the building when it’s no longer in use. Bricks can be crushed into a powder that can be repurposed into useful materials. This procedure involves no toxins, no waste, and no landfill.

Seal Moisture Out of Walls

Masonry makes a great building material because it seals moisture out while allowing it to escape. Many modern walls trap moisture inside the wall, which can lead to mold and mildew. In fact, trapped moisture is believed to be one of the causes of “sick building syndrome,” a phenomenon in which people get ill more often when confined together inside a building.

The idea that newer is always better is a common misconception. Oftentimes, techniques that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years are also the best. Click here to read more about this topic on the Guardian.

Ralph Petrillo Approaches 4 Decades in Family Business

ralph petrilloRalph Petrillo, co-owner of Mount Vernon stone company, Petrillo Stone, is approaching his 40th anniversary of his work in the family business, founded by his grandfather in 1907 after emigrating from Italy. While much has changed over the past century, like stone, many aspects of the dimension stone industry remain constant.

Ralph Petrillo calls the business “a bridge between three generations of workmanship, ideologies and technology.” After learning about the industry from their father and grandfather, today Ralph and his brother, Frank, continue the legacy.

“I always get a kick out of when we replace stones from a building that my grandfather or father originally worked on,” Petrillo said.

One of the biggest changes Ralph has observed since then is that stone is now manufactured and cut in locations throughout the world, and then shipped to New York City. When Petrillo Stone began, all stone had to be cut in the same state as the project location, according to Ralph.

With the changing industry comes new problems. Due to the worldwide scope of the stone industry, Ralph faces a new set of challenges than his father and grandfather.

“The biggest challenge in my work is being competitive with the factories in other places where labor, electricity, water, and property is cheaper,” Ralph said.

Ralph’s insight to the changes is rooted in decades of experience. He and Frank were exposed to the stone industry from an early age.

“As children we would come to my father’s office, go out into the shop and see the men busy cutting stone.  I vividly remember when our shop was cutting the Classic Roman Travertine for many of the Lincoln Center Buildings back in the 1960s,” Petrillo said.

If we could compare that shop from the 60’s, to how it looks in present day, we would notice changes, but we would catch some similarities.

“Although many of our machines have changed throughout the years, we still have some very old, very important machines which date back many years. As far as architecture is concerned, we can fabricate almost anything that an architect in the know can imagine. Styles are always changing, but we are constantly making stones for new building and buildings that are over 100 years old,” he said.

Those deep, historic roots are one of the things Ralph appreciates most about the business. He views his work as a connection from the past, to the present, and into the future.

“What I enjoy most about my business is the history of all the work we have done in the past and the work we are doing now, which will be making history for future generations,” Petrillo said.

When asked about the type of stone jobs he prefers to work on, Petrillo said he particularly enjoys fancier, more challenging jobs, since Petrillo Stone has the capacity to handle challenges that many competitors do not.

“We have the capability to draft and fabricate almost all types of natural stone work. An example of this type of work would be the Gothic Styled arches and tracery windows at Keating Hall at Fordham University,” Petrillo said.

Besides their unique skillset, something else that sets the Petrillo brothers apart is their dedication to quality.

“There are 2 ways of having quality control of the outgoing completed stonework. Both are done in my shop and at most shops. One way is simply having an expert go over every stone which is ready to be shipped out and checked over. Another way which has become very popular is a dry layout involving the architect going to a factory to look at many of the stones that are completed and approve them on the spot,” he said.

Through his work, Ralph Petrillo has had the opportunity to work on some of his favorite buildings.

“I have a few favorite buildings which my business has done the work on in the past and recently. Two of my favorite buildings that we originally did the work on are the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building and the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. Recently we supplied many new art deco stones to the New York Life Building which I think is really an incredible building as well,” he said.

Now that he’s celebrating 40 years, there is a burning question on our minds. Will the next generation continue the legacy?

As of now, the answer is unclear.

“As far as a next generation running our business, that is an unknown. My brother has 3 boys and I have 2 young girls. It is an interesting concept. I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” Ralph said.

Click here to read the full story.

Iowa University Team Wins Masonry Award for Innovative Climate Control System

Iowa State University LogoAt Petrillo Stone, we admire masonry for being an ancient art that evolves with new technology. That’s why we’re so intrigued by an architecture team at Iowa State University which recently created a 3D-printed ceramic system that efficiently cools buildings. For their efforts, the team won an award in masonry design and construction.

The project is called “Mashrabiya 2.0,” and is a facade that works its way into a building’s mechanical system. Once installed, it cools the space through evaporative cooling methods. It also works by controlling airflow and light. The secret is in the facade’s micro pores, small holes in the screen wall that ventilate a space as air passes through the pores.

The four faculty members, Shelby Doyle, assistant professor and Daniel J. Huberty Faculty Fellow in Architecture; Leslie Forehand, lecturer; Nicholas Senske, assistant professor; and Erin Hunt, computation and construction lab associate entered a contest called the Joan B. Calambokidis Innovation in Masonry Competition and won in the category of young architects and engineers.

The team was awarded a $10,000 prize after their project was selected by a jury of architects and leaders in masonry.

We would like to congratulate this team for their success! Click here to read the full story.

Fund in Place to Repair Burned Stone Building in Glacier National Park

Sperry ChaletSperry Chalet in Glacier National Park in Columbia Falls, MT, requires many costly repairs. The century old building burned in the Sprague Fire on August 31, 2017.

The Great Northern Railway opened Sperry Chalet in 1914, along with a handful of other lodges. Before it burned, Sperry Chalet was one of only two remaining lodges.

Sperry Chalet was a refuge for tired hikers who had to complete a difficult, 6.7 mile hike to reach the chalet. Locally quarried stone lined the walls inside the much-loved dining room, where visitors enjoyed roasts, pies, and breakfast foods.

The two-story masonry building situated on a bed of rock in the backwoods was an icon to visitors as well as those of us in the industry.

The Aftermath of the Fire

The roof and woodwork inside the building has vanished, along with the dormitory portion of the building. Even though much of the building has burned away, the kitchen and dining room may be salvageable.

Since the day after the fire, the Glacier Conservancy has been working with the park’s superintendent, Jeff Mow, to establish a plan of action to revitalize the Sperry Chalet.

The conservancy hired an engineering firm to evaluate the remaining structure, and they stressed that it needs to be stabilized before the winter.

The Sperry Action Fund is currently in need of more donations. Click here to read the full story.

The Marble House

Marble HouseHave you visited the museum at Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island? Now open to the public, the building is a landmark in American architecture and still strikingly beautiful.

Marble House was built as a summer home between 1888 and 1892 for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt. While summer homes in the area were traditionally wooden, Marble House marked the transition to the now well-known stone palace. Alva Vanderbilt was known in society for her flare as a hostess, and it’s said that she saw Marble House as a “temple to the arts”.

According to the website, “The house was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The cost of the house was reported in contemporary press accounts to be $11 million, of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble. Upon its completion, Mr. Vanderbilt gave the house to his wife as a 39th birthday present.”

Marble House is one of the earliest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the U.S. The building is U-shaped, and consists of four stories although it only appears to be two from the outside. The load-bearing section of the walls are made of brick, and the entire exterior of the building is Westchester marble. Not surprisingly, this gorgeous property as also appeared in several films and television series.

For more about Marble House and the lifestyles of the rich at the turn of the century, visit the Preservation Society of Newport County’s website.

Selecting Stone Blocks from the Lincoln Quarry

We recently flew out to Colorado to pick out blocks for our current project at the Knickerbocker Club in New York. In the gallery below, you can see pictures of Ralph Petrillo with the architectural team, the owner’s representative, the fabricator and the installer of the project. The Rocky Mountains are visible in the background.

The Lincoln Quarry is an underground quarry, which is unusual as most quarries are above ground. It is so named as it was the source for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Story of Stone

Have you ever wondered about the journey that natural stone takes before it is used in a building or furniture? The truth is, the stone’s travels are quite impressive. In a previous blog post, we told you about Frank and Ralph Petrillo’s trip to Italy where they visited the quarry from which Petrillo Stone Corporation sources much of its stone. A recent article on Dwell told a similar story, and we just had to share.

This article tells the story behind a Saarinen marble table top, from quarry, to the Knoll Inc factory, to the home or office. The story gives you an appreciation for this type of craftsmanship as well as the high quality products. Read the full story on Dwell.

Below, find some photos from the quarry in Italy that Frank and Ralph visited.

Petrillo Stone Corporation Celebrates 80 Years of Work with Fordham University

 A Business Relationship that Stands the Test of Time

Fordham University SealFamily-owned, New York-based stone company Petrillo Stone Corporation is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its business relationship with another respected New York institution – Fordham University. As part of that celebration, the team at Petrillo Stone recently carved and installed a new 16 ft. Fordham University seal and accompanying lettering in 23 karat gold leaf at the Lincoln Center Campus.

The relationship between Fordham University and Petrillo Stone Corp. dates way back to the deep dark depths of the Great Depression. In 1936, company founder Antonio Petrillo (A.T. Petrillo Company at the time) took the contract to fabricate all the cut limestone work for Keating Hall, at the Rose Hill Campus. This was a huge undertaking. The majority of the finished work was hand carved and all of the work was fabricated in the shop in Mount Vernon, NY. Keating Hall would be the first of many projects that generations of Petrillos would be handling for Fordham University.

In fact, Antonio’s son, John Petrillo, recounted many years after the completion of Keating Hall to his own son Ralph, “that job is what got our company through the Great Depression.”

In the years after the completion, Petrillo Stone Corporation has continued to replace pieces of limestone for Keating Hall due to acid rain or the shifting of the building. The family-owned business has completed other notable projects for Fordham University over the last 80 years, using the same traditional craftsmanship exemplified by founder Antonio.

“I can only speak for the 38 years I have been at Fordham for the consistently high standard of both product and service we have received from Petrillo Stone. Petrillo takes our ideas and translates them into workable designs executed to perfection at both our campuses,” said Brian J Byrne, Vice President for Lincoln Center Campus.

The above is an excerpt from a recent press release. Find the full article here.

Fordham University Seal Carving

In our last post, we described some of the work we’d been contracted by Fordham University to complete. In addition to those carvings, we’ve been working on a new seal for the Lincoln Center Campus. You can find photos of this work in the gallery below. All artwork is owned by Fordham University.

Petrillo Stone at the Old Phoenix House

Petrillo Stone WorkPetrillo Stone was contracted to remove some beautiful art work out of the old Phoenix House in Mohegan Lake, New York.

There were 14 carved marble stations of the cross, 4 carved marble carvings of Ignatius Loyola depicting his life, marble carvings of Jesus and Mary, a bronze and wood sculpture of Jesus on the cross ( shown below ), as well as another marble carving of St. Ignatius Loyola.

We were contracted to do this work by Fordham University, who owns all the art work. In the above photo, Ralph Petrillo is pictured on the left with John Spaccarelli of Fordham University (middle ) and our friend who transported some of the art work to the shop. Before the building was Phoenix House, it was a Jesuit monastery built in 1954.