Category Archives: News

hand carved tracery window

Hand-Carving a Tracery Window at Fort Washington Collegiate Church in Manhattan

Our work takes us to the most beautiful and serene locations – both in and near New York City. This time, we were at the Fort Washington Collegiate Church in Harlem. Founded in 1907,  it is part of the oldest continuous Protestant congregations in North America. With the incredible history of the building, it was only fitting to hand-carve a tracery window out of Indiana Limestone.

It’s All in the Details

Every aspect of our work focuses on the intricate details of the existing stonework and the purpose of each building. For the Marble Collegiate Church, the details were derived from the late Gothic period of architecture.

Tracery Windows

Beautiful detail in many old churches, tracery windows are divided into individual glass sections supported by stone bars or molding. This glass can then be stained, frosted, or left clear. In most churches, this style of architecture provides an unmatched serenity for patrons of the faith.

Indiana Limestone

A tracery window can be supported by the use of different types of stonework or ribs of molding, but a popular option for many buildings – including colleges and churches – is Indiana Limestone. Known for its durability and strength, Indiana Limestone adds a hint of elegance when combined with historical architecture.

Because this project was hand-carved by our stonemasons at our facility in Mount Vernon, New York, it took several weeks to produce the finished product. It took us just a few days to install, and now it is posed to impress generations to come.

Take a look at our pictures below.

ancient city of stone

3 Things You Need to Know About Stonemasonry

More than 70% of the world’s architecture is built using stone. The craft of stonemasonry is hard to miss. As we commute to and from work or school pick-up lines, we can easily miss out on the beauty of this stonework that is all around us. A foundation for many cities, stonemasonry is something to appreciate. Below are some facts about stonemasonry that you may not have known, but will hopefully give you a new appreciation of the art.

It’s a Tale As Old As Time ancient stonework

From the building of the Pyramids of Giza to the elaborate stone streets and structures of ancient Jerusalem, stonemasonry has been a ‘cornerstone’ and the foundation for most civilizations around the world. In fact, as far back as 8,000 years ago, Native Americans were using stonework for weapons, pottery, and cooking slabs. A commodity even 6,000 years ago, humans would sunbake clay bricks and construct the earliest monuments and structures in history. The art became perfected over the course of thousands of years, but even these early stonemasons were so skilled that many of their builds are still identifiable today. 

What’s older still are the quarries from which some stones are taken. For example, the ancient city of Aswan, Egypt, is estimated to be about 50,000 years old and is the location of the same quarry from which over 2 million blocks of stone were pulled to craft the Pyramids of Giza.

It Can Withstand Fire 

Excavation has been ongoing in many parts of the Middle East, South America, and Europe as ancient civilizations continue to be uncovered. A common theme is that many of the old cities and structures being excavated are the work of stonemasons. While much history has been lost to the elements of nature, stonemasonry has withstood the elements. Stone, unlike many alternative building materials, does not melt, twist or warp in high heat or fire.

As a result, scientists have uncovered massive monuments, churches, houses, and buildings that extremely skilled stonemasons constructed. Some of the most wonderous have been found in places like Jerusalem, Egypt, and Pompeii. Even covered in the desert sand and volcanic dust, the beauty remains.

It Has Contributed to the Advancement of Societies

Cities built with stone, foundations laid by skilled stonemasons, and the perfected art of stonemasonry are some of the reasons why societies advanced as much as they did. History shows us that societies with bigger stone cities, monuments, churches, or structures were often the home of many patriarchs and royalty. Today, with its use in cathedrals and universities, stonemasonry is also a sign of an educated and thriving society.

Our team at Petrillo Stone has been a part of the history of stonemasonry since 1907. Our roots in this field are deep and our passion for the art is immeasurable. Not only do we firmly believe that stonemasonry will continue to stand the test of time, but we have seen firsthand the beauty created when incorporating stonemasonry into any structure. We would be honored if you took a look at our latest stonework projects. Also, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to add stonework to your business or home.

Oldest map of Western Brittany

The Oldest Map of Europe Found Carved into Stone

Oldest map of Western BrittanyFrom time to time we like to feature unique stories about stone and masonry. Our ancestors had to be creative when it came to recording information. The most common way was carving important information into stone and stone walls.

Recently, a slab of stone with engraved intricate lines and motifs dating as far back to the Bronze Age has been revealed to be Europe’s oldest map, researchers say.

As investigated by CNN, researchers utilized high-resolution 3D surveys and photogrammetry to examine the Saint-Belec Slab – an engraved and partly broken piece of stone that was discovered in 1900 but forgotten about for almost a full century. It was revealed to be the oldest cartographic representation of a known territory in Europe.

The Oldest Map of Western Brittany Recorded

The records of this map show that the slab was moved into a private museum, the National Museum of Archaeology, in the castle of Saint-German-en-Laye, in 1900. In 2014, it was rediscovered in one of the museum’s cellars.

After studying this slab, researchers recognized that its surface was deliberately 3D-shaped to represent a valley with lines in the stone thought to depict a river network. The team of researchers noticed similarities between the engravings and landscape of Western Brittany. There are still many unknowns to this story, including why the slab was broken in the first place.

This study was published in the French Journal Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française.

It is exciting and interesting to learn the different functions of stone, and how it has changed throughout centuries.

6 Types of Stone Commonly Used for Projects

Variety of stonesThere are countless types of stone that can be used as materials for building. Each stone is unique, not all stones are equal, and some perform better when you use it for materials. At Petrillo Stone, we commonly use 6 materials in our projects:

  1. Basalt: This stone is between medium and fine grain. It’s dark-colored and composed of plagioclase and pyroxene minerals. This stone is commonly used to build roads, bridge piers, dams, river walls, and statues.
  2. Granite: Granite has a crystalline structure, and the grain can range from fine to course. It’s mostly made up of quartz and feldspar, with a little bit of mica and amphibole. Granite is used in buildings, bridges, paving, and monuments. Indoors, it can be used for tile floors, stair treads, and countertops.
  3. Sandstone: Sandstone is commonly combined with silica cement, and this mix is used to build heavy, solid structures. It’s made up of sand grains and a mix of silt or clay particles to occupy the space between the sand grains.
  4. Limestone: We commonly use limestone although not all limestone is usable. Certain varieties have high clay content making them non-durable. But, limestone is compact and dense which makes it great for building materials for floors, roofs, and pavements. Salty air can abrade it, so it’s best not to use it in coastal areas.
  5. Slate: Slate is made of quartz, clay minerals, and mica. It is extremely fine-grained and is used to make roofing tiles and pavers.
  6. Marble: Marble is known to be strong, uniform, imperious, and polishes beautifully. It’s made out of crystallized carbonate minerals. It’s easily carved, hence all the ancient statues carved in marble.

Our Response to COVID-19: Our Services Remain Available

We hope that you and your family are staying safe and well during this hectic time. The team at Petrillo Stone is maintaining a 6-foot distance and keeping our hands clean.

In this scary and confusing time, we wanted to update our clients and let them know that we are still taking jobs. In order to keep our workers and customers safe, we are running only skeleton crews. In addition, we’ve been thoroughly sanitizing the touch surfaces on all of our equipment and vehicles.

We realize this is an evolving situation, and we’re keeping an eye on it every day.

Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall: One of Our Favorite Masonry Buildings is Also the Tallest Traditional Masonry Building in the World

Traditional masonry is rare. Chances are that when you see a stone or brick building, there is a steel frame underneath that’s doing most of the heavy lifting. In the days before steel, all those heavy materials were supported by thick, load-bearing walls.

When it was built in 1901, Philadelphia City Hall was the tallest skyscraper in the world, the first non-religious building to hold the title. At 548 feet high, it remains the world’s tallest load-bearing building.

The load-bearing walls of this architectural wonder are 22 feet thick in some places, allowing them to support the heavy masonry work above. Construction took 30 years to complete and cost a total of 24 million dollars. After its construction, no architect had the desire to attempt such an ambitious project.

Philadelphia’s City Hall remains one of the most impressive buildings we’ve seen.

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.

In particular, 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.

Follow Us on Instagram!

Following us on Instagram is the best way to stay in-the-know regarding goings-on at Petrillo Stone.

On our account, we like to share photos of trips, recent projects, and sometimes not-so-recent memories from our shop’s beginnings in 1907. We’re also found of the video function so our followers can see our work in action.

Check out the photos below to get an idea of the photos we post:

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 State University

Iowa University Team Wins Masonry Award for Innovative Climate Control System

Iowa State UniversityAt 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.