2021 MEETINGHOUSE STONE STEPS PROJECT
The Meetinghouse steps project, conceived and completed in 2021, began in the late spring as Chris Queen, Friends board member, and Jonathan von Ranson, our volunteer stone mason, searched for the right stones in Wendell and in quarries and stone salvage yards around Massachusetts and beyond.
Five local granite stones made “the cut” — the splitting, cutting and dressing that Jonathan did during the mid-summer weeks. Many thanks to Parker Cleveland, Jonathan Dorr, Ed Hines, and Gail Mason for donating their beautiful slabs! Ed’s stone was from the historic parsonage of the Meetinghouse. Parker’s giant piece came from the foundation of the former Orange Hotel and, when cut, became the two steps that face Morse Village Rd. Jonathan Dorr’s and Ed’s became the four side steps. Gail’s stone allowed mason-Jonathan to practice the formal cutting and surface-dressing techniques that truly enabled the final product to take shape. The two beautiful capstone platforms were purchased from Swenson Granite Works.
Vital loans of tools for the job came from Todd Muller (hammer drill), Jody Slade and Michael Award (straight bars), Alistair MacMartin (feathers-and-wedges splitting system). Chisels from Jim Casino, Sharon Gensler & Pru Smith. Bob Groves (of Shutesbury) and Rick Drohen lent hoisting straps; Rick also lent a tamper and a tractor-rake for leveling the topsoil – what a fellow! Paul Diemand gave outright a “stone buster,” a key, specialized hammer. Tom Wetherby donated a diamond sawblade. Lending offers for the project were many, some had to be declined. There was lots of interest – people tended to stop in or slow and wave from their cars as the job was underway.
Local excavator Geoff Richardson brought Parker Cleveland’s stone to the site (coming along New Salem Rd., seen through rear-view mirror of the lead vehicle), and later helped lower the platforms into place, both at no charge. Hud Fuller of Grass Roots Landscaping worked for free for several rainy hours at a quarry with his equipment. G&S Lyman, Inc. kindly discounted crushed stone and loam. More supply came from excavator Jon Burnett.
The work was often hot and sweaty, but a joy for all, as we felt the rebuilt steps would welcome new generations back into a newly renovated Wendell Meetinghouse.
The elements of the job came together dramatically in the middle of August, with happy cheers by the crew and the ringing of the Meetinghouse bell! All labor was donated, but the platforms cost something, as did the crushed stone, drills, blades, rental of a wet saw, etc. These were paid for by the generosity of Paul and Melinda Godfrey, past members of Friends of the Meetinghouse, and Charles Smith, whose long association began when the building was the Congregational church. The project came in under budget.