Curbs to Columns

I’d like to take a moment to bring some attention to the story behind the material we’re using for our front columns, as well as well a long overdue introduction to Joe and Scotty, the masons that restored our building’s grand facade.

The El Moore’s property is wrapped by century old wrought iron fencing.  This fencing is true iron and very heavy.  To give it proper scale and support, our design called for nine masonry columns to mark the corners of the fence, as well as to flank either side of our driveway and pedestrian gates.  To our knowledge, the original El Moore building never had an ornate fence and there are no signs of masonry columns, so we had to arrive at a design that would complement the building’s unique architecture.  Several years ago, when we reconstructed our sister business the Green Garage, two blocks north, the answer for the column material was relatively easy.  That building had a raked-face brick and this was the most logical material to use on the columns at that location.  The El Moore, however, has a facade of red sandstone, mined from Lake Superior quarries that closed nearly a century ago. Simply matching this material would not be possible.

We thought about brick (after all, the sides of the El Moore are brick) but when this material was envisioned in front of the building, it was clear that it would insult the quality of the sandstone.  If you look around the neighborhoods from this time period, the highest quality, and therefore the most expensive, materials were used on the front facades for all to see.  This also would have to be true for anything that stood between the building and the street.  So what would honor the El Moore facade?

In 2011, Prentis street, just north of the Green Garage, was being repaved.  As part of the street paving project, the original remaining stone curbs were pulled out and replaced with new concrete curbs. Not being one to let good material go to waste, we approached the contractors and convinced them to allow us to have the old stone curbs for a future unknown use.  Over the next two days, they delivered over 200 pieces of sandstone curbing to the side lot next to the El Moore.


Three years later, we turned our attention to these stone curbs as a potential material that could be cut to size and used to sheath our fence columns at the El Moore.  The curbs, like the El Moore facade, came from Lake Superior sandstone.  Also like the El Moore, they had a century’s worth of patina, which would allow them to quickly settle into their new role and not appear too “new” for their setting on a historic street like Alexandrine.

Now that an appropriate material had been identified we came up with a plan for turning old stone curb material into elegant stone columns.  Here’s a list of what had to transpire to make this a reality:

  • The original curbs pieces averaged 36″ long, 16″ tall and 6″ thick.  We had to come up with a plan for how to cut the stone, size the stone pieces we wanted, and fit them together to create a 5 foot tall column.
  • We had to identify a stone company that could cut our curbs to usable blocks. We found the Booms Stone Co.
  • 200 pieces of curbing (averaging 300 lbs each) had to be loaded onto trucks and driven to the Booms Stone Co.
  • All of the stone had to be inventoried and labeled to cutting.
  • A few stone pieces were cut and brought back to the site so we could create a “mock-up” of the columns.
  • Mortar color and the profile of the masonry joint had to be determined (thank you to our masons Joe and Scotty).
  • For 2 weeks workers at the Booms Stone Co. ran our curbs through their saws and palletized the new pieces based on size.
  •  9 gorgeous stone columns were then constructed along our Alexandrine frontage.

Each of these steps involved multiple meetings, design conversations, pricing, and logistics considerations but the results are worth the effort.  That last step shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Our two masons for the El Moore, Joe and Scotty combined their talents as masons along with a dash of creativity and an artistic eye to complete these columns, and its comforting to know that in this age of automation, truly valuable things still require the hand of a craftsman.

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