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deGruchy Masonry Restoration

deGruchy Masonry Restoration: 40th Anniversary

This year, deGruchy Masonry, Inc. is celebrating 40 years of business in Masonry Restoration. Since its founding in 1984, deGruchy Masonry has undertaken hundreds of projects with various case-specific issues discovered for each one. We have retained employees that have started with us 15-30 years ago! A goal we have in looking toward the future is to take our collective knowledge and to train up the next generation of masons that would take the baton from us and continue the legacy of carrying out high-quality historic masonry restoration work. With this goal in mind, deGruchy Masonry currently runs classes on the subject at the Craftwork Training Center in Telford PA. Also, deGruchy Masonry Restoration still restores Farmhouses, Mills, Barns, Brick and Stone Churches along with all Landmark Buildings as a fulfillment contractor doing in-house installed sales of all LimeWorks.us products.

A quick history of the company as told by Andy deGruchy the owner of deGruchy Masonry Inc.

My family was not in the trades as many think my father or grandfather started the company. The story starts when I chose to take the path less traveled by and I decided to go into “The Arts” by pursuing a traditional trade career.

I entered Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades (now known as Williamson College of the Trades) in the fall of 1979 at age 18. 

I lived there for three years and was enrolled to only learn the masonry trade. Williamson was and still is an all-boys school. Every single student since the school’s founding in 1888, up and until this day if they are accepted in, gets a full three-year full scholarship to attend. This scholarship includes room and board, books and the entire 3-year program. Everyone is required to live on campus with only weekends and certain holidays off.

In my Junior year at Williamson, during the Summer break, I was living in my friend’s attic in Lansdale, PA on Derstine Ave. My roommate was a high school friend also named Andy. Together we started doing masonry work for hire as I would solicit to family, friends and neighbors in order to make some money over the summer. I taught my friend what I knew and we took on concrete walks and patios, flagstone paths set on concrete, twisted brick pier mailboxes and planters that we created from scratch. 

During the school year at Williamson I built all kinds of elaborate fireplaces and arches like segmental, jack, elliptical, Roman, Gothic and the like in the masonry shop. When I was a junior my mom came to parents’ day and took a look at this massive brick and stone fireplace I built. She whispered to me on the side and said with utmost sincerity and deep concern, “How will we get this home?” Waiting for me to explain something like we get a massive truck to load it and deliver it to our house I had to spoil her hopes and announce to her that we just knock all the projects down and do it all over again and again.  She was disappointed that is was not something we build in school, like some huge craft project, and then take home! Instead our job was to build lead corners and walls and chimneys and fireplaces and arches and practice and practice and practice. Then tear down, tear down, tear down and practice again in the masonry shop. So in order to amaze her further I built her a wall to wall fireplace with brick mantle and raised hearth from scratch at our home in Langhorne when I was home and not at school. All masonry students built everything in the shop out of reclaimed lime and sand using no cement in the mix so our projects would not get rock hard right away give us time to take them down before they became much more difficult to deconstruct. All these bricks and blocks and stones and the lime mortar was used again many times over at Williamson.

When I graduated from Williamson I became the resident mason for a house-building company. I built all the block foundations with not much more than a helper or two since the employer did not have a big crew. Then I would build the fireplaces and the brick facades on the front of the same homes. I liked having carte blanche given to me by the builder to in-set creative panels like 45 degree basket-weave brickwork into the chimney breast and do raised hearths and air intake and exhaust systems for better efficiency when building specialty designs like a brick-o-lator. Rumford fireplaces with herringbone brick fireboxes, patios with all masonry cooking grills and outdoor fireplaces, and other creative masonry work was something I loved to do. I worked there for the home builder during the summer of my senior year and for another full year until I became the resident mason for a commercial construction outfit. At the commercial outfit I built serpentine retaining walls, retrofits of all kinds of buildings with new masonry openings and stucco and repairs and tile work and all sorts of other applications of masonry which I all learned at Williamson. In both cases I loved the work but I realized that construction was a thankless profession in that most contractors who hired you were kind of unsophisticated in running the type of business that would offer health insurance and paid days off or any other benefits. I thought that I probably could do a better job running my own business. So on July 9, 1984 I wandered into the Prescott Insurance Agency in Lansdale. The late Harvey Prescott listened to my need for a business liability policy and sold me one. I really believed at that moment,  as I can clearly remember his face… like it was yesterday… looking at me with patience while he heard my grand plan. He had kind and endearing eyes which took on a sympathetic gaze upon me while hearing all my ideas that just needed to be backed up by some insurance. Harvey Prescott really listened to my ambitious story that I was to start a business and he listened  like he had all the time in the world. When I left his office however I did think to myself that he probably was thinking “this poor guy will most likely be out of business in a few short years like so many others who I have sold a policy to, but it’s not my role to dash dreams. Instead I will just follow through with the insurance policy as is my job and just wish him the best.” The feeling I had at that time that he may have doubted my ability to succeed really was a good one in hindsight. I think that is so because I believe  there is a part of me and probably everyone who has some grand plan yet  perceives those who hear their ideas to be doubtful of their ability to want to say- “I’ll show them!’ and that puts umph into the intensity to stick to the goal of the plan. So I thank Havey Prescott for the insurance policy and the right amount of cautious encouragement. I think of him every July 9th. To this day my renewal date for my insurance policies remains July 9th for every one of my 40 insurance policy renewals.

In 1984 I was asked to repoint an old  stone farmhouse. I took a liking to working on historic structures. I decided to make this type of work a specialty and that is how deGruchy Masonry, Inc. took on the DBA (Doing Business As) with the State or PA as “deGruchy Masonry Restoration”. In 1986 I then furthered my knowledge of the subject my taking an intensive workshop, based in NYC called RESTORE but held in Williamsburg, Virginia. There I learned about the trail of 6000 years of recorded building history in the use of lime mortar and how lime was key to the longevity of ancient masonry structures.

Since then we have worked on hundreds of historic Farmhouses, Mills, Barns, Churches doing stonework, brickwork, plasterwork and the repair of the same. Along the way we have worked on more exciting projects, (exciting due to their notoriety), like Daniel Boone’s homestead and William Penn’s Pennsbury Manor for the PHMC. I was hired by the Mount Vernon’s Ladies Association in Virginia to extract lime mortar from the brick garden walls that George Washington himself laid out at his home using his surveying skills. I recreated a reproduction formula of the lime mortar and sent tractor-trailer loads of this new material for the walls to be rebuilt there at the home of George Washington in Virginia.

In addition to that feather in the cap, I was part of a team of three people to clean and restore the James Hoban Monument at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Mr. Hoban was the architect who designed the White House. Another project completed by deGruchy Masonry, which was also one of the many workshops I have held and led, was the restoration of the front brownstone facade of the Frederick Muhlenberg home in Trappe, PA.— Mr. Muhlenberg was the first speaker of the US House of Representatives and also an early if not the first  minister of the Lutheran Church in America.

Samplings of the work that deGruchy Masonry Restoration has taken on from NYC to Florida to Aruba and back home to Bucks, Montgomery and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania can be seen at www.repointing.com.

We currently employ approximately 20 people and we are capable of taking on almost any form of masonry restoration including the repair and repointing of any size building, new stonework and new or refurbishing interior plaster. I always start each project with a mini-consultation on site. I do charge for that first visit based on where the project is located. I do this because no two projects are alike and I look at each project in a “stand alone” manner to give proper advice to the owner on what they should consider for their specific application if they are deciding to proceed with some form of intervention to their historic masonry structure. You can call deGruchy Masonry Restoration at 215-536-4482 to arrange an initial site visit with me and I never seem to tire in enthusiasm to experience all forms of vintage masonry so I’ll be glad to meet you and see your treasure. To everyone who has been a part of supporting deGruchy Masonry, including those who have worked here and those who have bought our services over my 40-year journey, thank you.

-Andy deGruchy, President

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