Members of the Heritage Conservation Network repair the stone walkways at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.
Members of the Heritage Conservation Network repair the stone walkways at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.

When my daughter telephoned to ask what I wanted for Father's Day, I think she was still reeling from my reaction to last month's birthday gift. I know she meant well. But I almost went into mild shock when she insisted that I take up a new hobby – gardening.

She said it was for my health. Her inspiration was an online article suggesting middle-aged men stood a better chance of being healthy if they practiced a stress-relieving task. When I looked at her collection of shovels, seeds, and soft knee pads, I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry. I know she meant well, but I'm not quite ready for that restful of a lifestyle.

But I think my daughter is on to something. In preparing this month's issue, I developed an itch to work outside. Perhaps I'm inspired by our reports on how masonry is greatly influencing the hardscape industry. I was impressed by the ways our contractors are aiding architects and designers in crafting creative masonry elements. Masonry is a part of everything, from pavements to rooftops.

To solve my restlessness, I've signed up to combine exercise and learning by being a part of a masonry preservation project. I will participate in the Heritage Conservation Network (HCN) project to repair the stone walkways at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum. The group did some preliminary work there last year.

The structure is the last of a few architecturally distinctive homes that once overlooked Long Island Sound along the shores of Pelham Bay north of New York City. Designed by William Delano of Delano & Aldrich and built from 1836-42, the garden is a series of descending terraces enclosed by stone walls with flagstone walks and steps that surround a central, square pond.

The project involves removing the stones and reinstalling them using galleting, a technique that involves filling the space between large stones with small pieces, or gallets. A local mason and the museum staff who received training from mason Andy deGruchy, a contributor to our magazine, will lead the work.

Founded by Judith Broeker and Jamie Donahoe, HCN helps local restoration groups by organizing volunteer vacations in the form of building conservation workshops around the world. I'm impressed by their work. If we can involve more of the public in historic masonry projects, our market should grow. And Broeker has been trying to solicit us in aiding their search for technical help in preserving important buildings.

Perhaps after stooping over in the hot summer sun for a whole week, those same folks will understand the value of a good bid.

But for me, I'm hoping my week of work will prove to my daughter that dad isn't quite ready for the rocking chair.

If you are interested in being part of hands-on skills training in addition to supporting community-based preservation projects, please visit the Heritage Conservation Network's Web site at