Edward Guglielmi -- Italian Master Stonecutter and Architect -- My grandfather

Edward Guglielmi, architect and stone mason
Edward Guglielmi, architect and stone mason | Source
Sketch by Edward Guglielmi
Sketch by Edward Guglielmi | Source
Sketch by Edward Guglielmi
Sketch by Edward Guglielmi | Source
Sketch by Edward Guglielmi.  This is the sketch I chose from his portfolio.
Sketch by Edward Guglielmi. This is the sketch I chose from his portfolio. | Source

The Maestro - the teacher

To me he was just Grandpa Guglielmi. I remember the family dinners with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins and all that great Italian food and grandpa sat at the head of the large, large, dining room table. I grew up having a wonderful grandpa from Isernia, Italy. He came to America in 1920 to visit his aunt in Philadelphia, PA. He met my grandmother, Theresa Feola, and fell madly in love. They were married in 1923, and he never returned to Italy except to visit. He lived in Pennsylvania for the rest of his life, became an American citizen, and he and my grandmother had four children: Cosmo, Kathryn, Alliene, and Norma. I am Kathryn's eldest daughter.

Edward Guglielmi was born on January 18, 1900 in Isernia, Italy approximately 120 miles southeast of Rome. Isernia is a city that is an educational center which has attracted scholars from great distances for advanced studies and it still does today. At age 14 he had completed designing and architectural school and graduated the equivalent of an architectural engineer. He then moved on to Florence, Italy and studied more architecture and design. His final exam was to design and reproduce the brass doors as Ghilberti had done on the Florence bapistery. He passed his final with a grade of "sobresaliente" - A, Then, he served in the Italian Army during WWI, finally coming to America in 1920.

While in Philadephia, he met Charles T. Eastburn, a prominent stone dealer and quarry owner. The two men developed a long lasting friendship and Eastburn was able to persuade my grandfather to move to Curwensville, PA to become superintendent of the Roaring Run Quarry which Eastburn owned. The quarry was one of the best in the east coast and was a sandstone quarry. Eastburn produced and shipped stone for numerous projects through out the eastern region of the U.S.

My grandfather spent a lifetime building with stone, first as the superindendent at Roaring Run Quarry, and then in his later years self-employed as an architect and stone mason. He left his hallmark on numerous churches, bridges, state and federal government buildings, museums, colleges and university campuses and municiple and private projects throughout Pennsylvania.

He worked on Princeton University's Chapel. Here the chaple's architect climbed scaffolding to observe my grandfather's work and commented: "I don't know what I'm doing here. This man already knows more than I could ever tell him." My grandfather also worked on the chapel at Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA and yes, he knew the infamous Joe Paterno.

During the 1960's my family was living in New Jersey just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, PA. I was fortunate to have my grandfather working in Philadelphia at the time. He was doing reconstruction work on Independence Hall, Elfreth's Alley, Betsy Ross' house, and the Ben Franklin Printing Shop. When I was in the fourth grade I organized a field trip for the class to Independence Hall and my grandfather gave my class a lesson on how to lay brick. It was very cool and interactive. My grandfather let a couple of the boys put the mortar on and then lay the bricks along the string keeping them straight. I was heroine for the day because I got us out of school and on a field trip. It is one of the best memories I have of my grandfather.

One time, during the summer when my sister and I were back in PA visiting with my grandmother (my grandfather was deceased), she dragged my cousins and my sister and me, to the movies one night to see "Rocky." I say "dragged" because, except for the boys, we didn't want to go see a boxing movie. I thought, how awful and boring. Well, the reason she took us all to the movie was to show us the stairs Rocky Balboa runs up in triumph at the Philadelphia Art Museum. My grandfather had poured those stairs. Suddenly, I loved that movie. And in the back of my foggy mind, I did remember my grandfather mentioning that when we lived in NJ. He did pour those stairs in the 1960's sometime. He also worked on the Philadelphia and Washington, DC Mints on the outside construction.

Edward Guglielmi had a great love working and building with stone and it was his passion for six decades. I kid you not, many of his colleagues and peers called him "the Michelangelo of the New World." He could take a block of stone and cut it into any shape or finish. He was an artist and a sculptor who could carve letters or designs in stone with a chisel and mallet as fast or faster than the machines designed to do that. He was also a perfectionst that attacked his work.

This story about my grandfather and great-uncle is true and my grandfather became famous for this incident. My great-uncle Frank is the one who would always tell it, so there were never any hard feelings. One day at the Roaring Rock Quarry my great-uncle Frank (my grandmother's brother) had spent considerable time cutting a block of stone. He triumphantly showed it to my grandfather saying it was finished. My grandfather took one look at it, picked up the nearest sledge hammer and with mighty blow smashed it to pieces. "Now it is finished," he declared. Needless to say, my great-uncle Frank perfected his stone cutting skills.

There are many more stories about my grandfather and his years as a stone cutter. But, this last one I'm sharing is the most precious one to me. In his later years my grandfather had a stroke. He would sit me down and tell me stories upon stories of growing up in Italy, his schooling, becoming an architect and stone mason, and his work on buildings and bridges. I think he knew he was going to die soon and wanted me to know all this about him.

One day he took me to the basement of their house and took me under the stairs. There he moved some other items and pulled out an old, dusty brown portfolio. Inside, was all his artwork and sketches he has done as a young man in Italy. I was amazed at his work. It was really good. He told me I could pick one drawing from the portfolio to have for myself. I picked the portrait of the girl you see on this page. He then put the portfolio back in its place under the stairs and told me I was not to tell anyone about the portfolio. But, when he died, I was to go to the basement and get the portfolio. He wanted me to have it and all the contents as a rememberance of him after he had died. When that fateful day came in 1976, I did as he instructed. When I showed the portfolio to my mom and grandmother they were stunned. No one had ever seen the portfolio and no one had known it even existed.

I told my grandmother he had allowed me to pick a sketch when he first showed me the portfolio and I have always kept that one. It now hangs on the wall in my living room. But, I gave the portfolio to my grandmother. I thought she really should have it. We could all share in his art and sketches then. And we all have. We all have copies of all his sketches from the portfolio, but I am the only grandchild that has one of his originals. I guess it is because I was the one that would listen to his Italy stories and all about his work. Of course, when I became older I traveled to Isernia, Italy many times and met all his brothers and sisters.

My grandfather died in 1976 from complications of another stroke. But, he left behind a permanent legacy, not only to his family, but to everyone in the U.S. from all the buildings and bridges he worked on, designed and built over the many years he was an architect and stone mason. When I walk on the campuses of Princeton and State College I recognize the PA sandstone and his work. I had a cousin that held his wedding in the Princeton Chapel and another cousin that held her wedding in the Penn State Chapel in reverence to my grandfather and his work. We are all so proud of Grandpa Guglielmi and his legacy!


Copyright (c) 2012 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved

Design by Edward Guglielmi
Design by Edward Guglielmi | Source
Masonry tools of Edward Guglielmi
Masonry tools of Edward Guglielmi | Source
Masonry tools of Edward Guglielmi
Masonry tools of Edward Guglielmi | Source

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Comments 23 comments

T4an profile image

T4an 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

What an amazing tribute to your Grandfather! He sounded like such a remarkable man and you are so lucky to have one of his beautiful works of art. Great hub, voted up!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you. He was an amazing man and yes, I am fortunate to have his original sketch. I'm so glad you enjoyed this piece and thank you for stopping by to read this and comment.


T4an profile image

T4an 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

I wish I could have met him. He sounds remarkable.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California

I read your whole story, It was fascinating. I can tell you are very proud of your Grandfather, He was truly an amazing person and artist. There are many parallels with your story and my story. My father and mother both emigrated from Italy during the same period as your Grandfather. They met here in Los Angeles and were married in 1923. My father met his father in Los Angeles and they both worked for the LA Brick Yard for a while. But never became the artists that your grandfather was. We used to meet at my Grandparent's house for huge dinners on Sunday afternoons with the entire clan of aunts, uncles,and cousins, and friends. My wife is also first generation Italian and our backgrounds are very similar.

When we were in Florence, we saw the doors of the bapistery. For your grandfather to reproduce that and get that grade was testment to his talent.

I printed this hub page for her to read. Thank you so much for sharing this story and kindling some very fond memories. Voting up, interesting, and sharing.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

peoplepower73: Thank you so much for reading this! Well, at the time he was just Grandpa and he was always in work clothes and banging on rocks, and you don't realize how remarkable he is at the time. I had to become an adult to appreciate his work and the fact that he wanted to tell me so much. I loved him dearly as well as my grandmother, but that's a whole other story. Those times cannot be replaced. I'm so glad to hear you experienced them also. Thanks so much for sharing your comments with me. " eh, Paisan " as my grandmother would say.

That is amazing that your grandfather and mine do share similarities. They were married the same year and working for the Brick Yard. There was a Brick Yard in Curwensville also. My fondest memories are those ItaliAN dinners on Sundays and holidays.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

remarkable man... remarkable read! Thank you for sharing.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you, Mhatter. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece. He was a remarkable man and a great grandpa! Thank you for reading!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

What an extraordinary man, they don't make them like that any more. This is a well deserved tribute to remarkable man, his work will be appreciate for many generations to come. thank you for sharing.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Yes, he was extraordinary, but he was just grandpa to us. He was really humble and sort of matter of fact about his talents. He really did accomplish a lot and left all of us a great legacy. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I appreciate your input!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

What a great man your grandfather was. I love that a hardworking physical man also was so artistic. He seemed to never flinch but did what was required to care for the ones he loved. You come from good stock!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Grandpa was quite a guy! He really taught us all about life and to always give our personal best and to aspire for excellence. He was always our family's guiding star in life. We miss him! Thanks for reading this and I'm glad you enjoyed it.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

In some families I think you can point to one person and say he/she is responsible for the success and strength of the family. I sense that your family was built by your grandfather.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Yes, my grandfather was that person in my family. We miss him a lot! Thanks so much for reading this and leaving a comment.


BeyondMax profile image

BeyondMax 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

When I first read about the Bok Tower that you wrote I was so impressed with your grandfather's talent and it made me really sad that he wasn't mentioned for his input. I wanted to read about him and to see him through your eyes, and when I saw this hub I was jumping with joy that my dream came true =) This is such a wonderful tribute to his amazing, great talent. I can see now that his journey started when he was so young and it takes my breath away of how much he achieved! Thank you for sharing your fascinating stories!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks so much. Yes, it took me a while, but I finally wrote my hub about Grandpa. It truly was a labor of love and it was pretty easy to write. I know, he achieved so much in his life, as well as having all of us in the family. He truly was blessed, and we were blessed to have him as a father and grandfather. He always made me want to achieve also - I did, but on a much smaller scale. So glad you enjoyed this BMax and thank you so much for your lovely comments. Much appreciated!


LisaKoski profile image

LisaKoski 3 years ago from WA

What an amazing story! His sketches are beautiful. This is a wonderful tribute to your grandfather.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Lisa: Thank you so much for reading this. My grandfather was an amazing man and so talented. We miss him alot. Thanks for your visit and your comments - most appreciated.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

suzette - Seems we have a lot in common. :) Oldest child, artistic and creative grandfathers from the old country. I saw this a couple of months ago, but knew I wanted to take my time reading it, so I put it on my desktop for later. This is wonderfully written of course and the photographs of his drawings and tools are great. His drawings are just breathtaking. It must nave been wonderful growing up close to family and later realizing all the wonderful stone projects and art work he had been responsible for. Such a marvelous hub. :) We are so fortunate to have come from both loving and very creative families. :) Theresa

Oh, and Sharing, of course. :)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Theresa, Thank you so much for reading this. Yes, when I read the article you wrote on both your grandparents I realized how much we had in common. It is wonderful to be able to look at his buildings and stone work and realized that was his vision and statement in life. He has been gone since '76 and it is comforting to be able to look at permanent buildings he worked on and created. The really creative part of the family still lives in Italy -- I have Italian cousins who have really inspired me. Artists and writers are living there. I always say the Italiians in our family are the 'intelligent' and 'creative' side of the family. lol My grandfather's family really are Renaissance men and women. Thank you so much for your lovely comments and I remember the great gifts your grandparents have and brought to the U.S. from Poland.


jonibar 3 years ago

Hi Suzette

What a lovely piece. I learned some new things about Grandpa. Thanks for sharing.

Joni


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Joni: So glad you read this and I'm glad you enjoyed it. This is family lore and info from my mom and that book he was written up in. Thanks so much for your visit - such a pleasant surprise! Do join hub pages, we have so much fun writing and giving feedback to one another! Hello to Adam and Elise!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

What an amazing and talented man your grandfather was! And how joyous that he shared all his stories and precious drawings with you. My grandfather and uncles were also stone masons, but farmers as well. Farming was their main job, but masonry was their love. Thank you for sharing this awesome personal tribute ;) Pearl

Voted Up+++


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

grandmapearl: Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this and how great your grandfather and uncles were stone masons, too, as well as farmers. Thanks so much for your visit - most appreciated.

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