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Brick by Brick

Historic Arkansas Museum - Wednesday, April 08, 2015

We’re trying to do things like they would have been done in 1820s Little Rock, for the most part. And that includes the brickwork. Then, when Little Rock and the surrounding areas were virtually wilderness, William Woodruff needed about 150 tons of clay for his two-story print shop. That clay had to be located, hand (and horse) dug and transported to what is now Cumberland and 2nd Streets where it was shaped and baked into bricks. He needed 60 to 70 tons of lime mined, transported and pulverized, along with 50 tons of sand, for the mortar. What a statement of ambition Woodruff’s brick print shop made in 1823when it was completed.

Today, we’re getting the handmade bricks from Carolina Brick Company and we’re mixing the mortar (to suit an 1820s high-lime recipe) with purchased materials—so our personal labor is down a little. But it’s true to the era. With the help of master mason Raymond Cannetti, who has worked on projects at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and James Madison’s Montpelier among other prestigious places, our local brick masons are learning how to build the print shop like Woodruff had his built. That includes the correct, period brick pattern called Five Course American Bond and the selection of the nicest bricks for the front of the building, leaving the lower quality ones for the sides. The hand-tooled mortar work was also done on the façade, while less time-consuming mortar work was used on the sides. According to Cannetti, 19th century masons were illusionists, using mortar techniques to create shadows, thus making the bricks look more uniform and precise.