When I was in high school I took a building trades course in my junior and senior years through the BOCES program. It was my intention to go into the carpentry field when I graduated, but I had no idea that it would actually be the masonry trade where I would find my calling. At that time, the building trades program had teachers for carpentry, electrical and plumbing and masonry. Sam Depalo was the masonry teacher who took an interest in my abilities. He signed me up to participate in the VICA competitions, a competition to find the students who excelled in their fields of endeavor. Although I didn't come close to winning, I enjoyed the experience and it heightened my interest in masonry.
While still in school, one of the teachers asked if I could help him build a chimney for the house that he was constructing. I agreed and after the project was completed he in turn told his neighbor who also needed a chimney. I ended up doing three chimneys for that family and then it just took off. It was 1979 and America was experiencing an energy crisis and because of that, many people were putting in wood stove chimneys. This work led into many other types of masonry jobs.
A couple of years after I graduated from high school, I met and worked for a mason named Jim Vandemark who introduced me to stonework. He was in his seventies then and most people were amazed that he was still working with such heavy material at his age. I worked with him for a couple of years on and off and then a friend that I had met in the building trades program, Dave McAvinney, referred me to a customer in Bolton Landing who needed a fireplace. This was my first project in the Lake George area. That customer referred me to Andresson and Nicholson Construction Company who hired me to work on a project in Hague on Lake George. At the time I was twenty five years old with a wife and new baby at home. This job was exciting but also nerve racking at the same time. I had to devise a hoisting apparatus to lift boulders weighing as much as 6,000 lbs into the fireplace in the center of the house. Thankfully I was able to do it with no major mishaps. With the same large boulders on the outside of the house it was a demanding project that took about three years to complete. The architectural firm that designed the house was Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Wilkes Barre, PA and Peter Bohlin was the head architect on the project. He was a pleasure to work with and made me feel completely comfortable taking on the work. This project was nominated for, and won, the 1994 Tucker Architectural Award in category III. This project went on to be in many magazine publications which is where Geoff Wolcott of GKW Working Design saw it and got a hold of me to do a similar project. I worked on that project initially for about two and a half years steady and then on and off for the next seventeen years creating many lasting friendships and fond memories.
I have been fortunate to have had many great customers over the years and I look forward to meeting and working for many more in the years to come. In recent years I have worked closely with Cifone Construction on many of their projects. They represent a large portion of my yearly workload and I feel fortunate to have been able to make this connection. Matt Cifone and company produce homes of the highest quality with attention to even the smallest detail.