Peterhead granite pillars crossing Atlantic to New York's luxury Windermere building

The Windermere in New York.
The Windermere in New York.
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For years she was the architectural jewel of New York's Upper West Side and a grande dame of New York apartment life who counted the wealthy elite, then professional working 'New Women' and later celebrities such as Hollywood actor Steve McQueen among her prestigious residents.

But after years of disrepair and rent strikes the eight-story Windermere on Ninth Avenue and 57th Street is rising from the ashes with the centrepiece of the multi-million dollar refurbishment being three ornamental pillars crafted from Peterhead granite and currently making their way across the Atlantic, wrapped in foam, in an export crate.

Richard Collinson, commercial manager, Fyfe Glenrock

Richard Collinson, commercial manager, Fyfe Glenrock

"Detective work by Scottish stonemasons"

Sourcing the pink granite for the pillars for the entrance to the building, constructed in 1881, involved detective work by Scottish stonemasons after they were contacted by US stonemasons seeking an exact match.


Natural stone specialists Fyfe Glenrock in Oldmeldrum, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, identified the type of granite needed for the Windermere’s restoration from a photograph of the existing columns.


Original shipping and building records suggested the stone had been imported from Scotland, prompting Swenson Stone Consultants in New Hampshire to contact the firm which has a worldwide reputation for granite quarrying and craftsmanship.

Stonemason at Fyfe Glenrock creates Peterhead granite pillar for the Windermere in New York.

Stonemason at Fyfe Glenrock creates Peterhead granite pillar for the Windermere in New York.

"The photo they sent had sufficient detail for us to know the pillars had been created from Peterhead granite."


Richard Collinson, the company’s commercial manager, said: “We have worked with this firm in the past so they were aware of our knowledge of Scottish granites. They emailed asking for confirmation of the identity of the granite which they believed to be from Aberdeenshire.”


“The photo they sent had sufficient detail for us to know the pillars had been created from Peterhead granite. It’s always very interesting when we get an unusual request like this, and we’re delighted to be able to help restore a building of such significant historical interest.”


The difficulty was sourcing the granite as the major quarries closed many years ago.
Eventually the pillars were created after the granite was located at Stirlinghill quarry, and cut by taking the best part of 40 tonnes in blocks.


Mr Collinson who visited New York three years ago said he was struck by the amount of Peterhead granite used in building and memorial bases.


“If you look at the history books, a lot of masons from the north east of Scotland migrated to and from America in the late 1800s,” he said.


“Because they had a knowledge of indigenous Scottish granite and its properties, it is understandable they would seek out Scottish materials to use there. So, it wasn’t only the men, but the materials, making the transatlantic journey.

"There is some evidence to suggest the Brooklyn Bridge parapet bases were made by Aberdeen masons," - Richard Collinson, commercial manager, Fyfe Glenrock.


“We’re talking about 120 years ago when stonemasonry would still have been a relatively young industry in the new world, with plenty of work opportunities.


“There is some evidence to suggest the Brooklyn Bridge parapet bases were made by Aberdeen masons so, given the fact Peterhead granite was used at the Windermere, it’s likely Scottish masons were involved in construction.”


The company has provided indigenous Scottish granite for projects including The Scottish Parliament, the Millicent Fawcett Suffragist Memorial in Parliament Square, London and more recently The Silver Fin Building, Union Street, Aberdeen.