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Another Brick in the Wall

by Neale Nickels
On the heels of a very successful Tunes from the Tombs on June 13, a nod to one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs seemed like an appropriate way to introduce the latest news from the Preservation, Restoration and Operations (PRO) Team. If you’ve been following along, you know we’ve been working hard in the Bobby Jones section of the cemetery, just to the right of the Memorial Drive pedestrian entrance. The PRO Team focused on

Chipper Gillen (l) and Ray Hall

Chipper Gillen (l) and Ray Hall

leveling coping, cradling, and monuments in a selected area abutting Mr. Jones’ gravesite. Additionally, stonemason Ray Hall of Eclectic Stoneworks and his apprentice Chipper Gillen have been making the necessary repairs to the granite and marble walls and, yes, the brick walkways in that area.
Ray has been a stonemason for over 45 years and does incredible work. He and Chipper bring a wealth of experience to Oakland, which has allowed us to make a big impact on the Bobby Jones “Gateway” project. We especially appreciate the thought and care that they employ, which is so important for a successful preservation project. We have chosen historically appropriate mortar mixtures and colors to make “in-kind” repairs and have also taken time to identify the correct tools to match the historic bead profiles of the decorative joints.
Brick repair work from Eclectic

Repointing in progress, by the PRO Team.

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Ray and Chipper at work

It’s been bricks galore for the past month or so down at the historic “operations area” of the cemetery, where we have been prepping for the installation of a new (to us) institutional quality greenhouse. You can read more about the awesome story of how this project came to be in this Atlanta Journal-Constitution feature.

Greenhouse foundation being laid

Greenhouse foundation being laid

The PRO Team’s focus has been to stabilize the walls of our circa 1900 greenhouse, which stand today as partial ruins. Here, too, we analyzed the mortar used during the original construction and created a replica mixture for re-pointing, a process that involves removing failing mortar to a certain depth, cleaning out dust, wetting the joint, applying the new mortar, and some final tooling. In a few places, we embedded fiberglass stitch-rods to provide tensile strength. More bricks lie below the surface, as we have discovered through an archaeological investigation inside the greenhouse walls. We are still piecing together the evidence, though I feel confident that we can say the bricks were related to an earlier building on the same site.
We are far from done with the masonry restoration, but we reached our goal of preserving the areas that will be impacted by the installation of the new greenhouse, which is being reassembled currently. When our contractor, Belan Builders, finishes the installation of the greenhouse, we will continue to repoint and stabilize the rest of the walls to complete the project.
We’ve already moved down the road from Bobby Jones to the Jewish Flats section of the cemetery, where we will complete the restoration process which began several years ago. I’m also hopeful that the attention we’re giving to the greenhouse and the operations area will expand in to other preservation opportunities in that part of the cemetery. Stay tuned!

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