THE KILN CHIMNEYS GET FACE-LIFTS!
By Diana Bullock-Runge
In 1999, Rob and I contracted with Pfaltzgraff to establish the Hill-Fulper-Stangl Potteries Museum inside the original Stangl Outlet kiln. Initially our major concern for constructing hundreds of pounds of glass showcases inside a kiln was that the chimney was deteriorated and leaked like a sieve. We were very concerned as to whether a loose brick could fall and crash into our showcases. When we questioned our host about the leakage problem, we were informed that reconstructive chimney work was planned for the future but no date set. They advised us that we would have to put up with the leaks and puddles on the floor until the work could be performed. Over the past two years, we crossed our fingers and occasionally nagged gently the powers-that-be at Pfaltzgraff but sometimes the cogs in the wheels of progress move very slowly, too slowly.
Some of the damage on one of the "better" kilns.
Our concern evaporated as we ecstatically watched the work begin in April 2002. Meet our savior, James Bryant of Heritage Construction of Hampton, NJ. James is a mason who trained with his father in England and came here to establish his own company. He enjoys doing all types of restoration work and sees the shape and location of the kiln chimneys as a challenge. The bottle shape makes it difficult to fit the scaffolding snugly against the chimney, and the unique construction of the double-brick walls makes it tricky to remove the outer layer of brick easily.
Restoration mason James Bryant at work on
one of Stangl Pottery's kiln chimneys.
James' restoration of the double-wall construction.
The fresh mortar joints were covered with plastic to
prevent the mortar from cracking until it could cure.
Painstakingly, he removed the old kiln bricks section by section, brick by brick. He has skillfully replaced the deteriorated brick with new, which was carefully matched in color and type. The repair is a close match to the original, but never exact. This is in keeping with the many old repairs and brick replacements already on the kilns, and certainly gives the old brick surface a lot of character!
While the work of a mason normally takes place on the ground, James’ job was more difficult as he made trip after trip up and down the ladder. He mixed the mortar by hand with brisk movements and made his ascent up the ladder again with hods of bricks and buckets of mortar balanced in his arms.
The small chimney that James first repaired was built during late 1929 – early 1930, and had experienced more damage over the years than the other two chimneys. Many bricks had fallen out or crumbled and this chimney in particular was facing complete collapse had this work not been ordered at this time.
One of the two smaller kilns located on the sales floor inside is currently blocked-off as the bricks surrounding the arched door opening are falling out. Once that repair has been made, we will eventually be opening that kiln as part of our museum display. It will be arranged as it would have looked in its firing days, stacked with saggars and other implements of the pottery trade.
Never let it be said that we don’t have a wee bit of fun in any of our Stangl adventures! Rob harvested a big stack of the used chimney bricks that the mason had removed and discarded. He heaved them off the roof for me to catch. It took real "skill" on his part not to hit me!! We will be periodically offering a few of these authentic Stangl kiln chimney bricks on Ebay. Some of them are really clunky with the original mortar still attached. We know that many dedicated collectors and historians will never pass up the opportunity to own a bit of Stangl history. (Proceeds from the sale of these bricks will benefit the museum – we need to buy light bulbs – again!)
Stangl's kiln chimneys are now restored, missing and damaged bricks have been replaced and mortar joints re-pointed. These landmark chimneys are once again ready to withstand wind and weather for many, many more generations. Our kudos to James Bryant of Heritage construction for an excellent job well done!