Granite Symposium Remarks – Hallowell, September 11, 2021
Granite was quarried in Hallowell commercially as early as 1815 with stone supplied for the construction of the Quincy Market in Boston from 1824 to 1826. During the 1820s and 30s, Hallowell granite was used to build the Maine State House, the Kennebec Arsenal, and the Maine Insane Hospital in Augusta.
Large scale quarrying operations began in 1865 with the establishment of the Hallowell Granite Company by Joseph R. Bodwell. From the 1860s to the early 1900s, this firm attracted Italian immigrant stonecutters and their families to Hallowell. These skilled artisans were “the new Mainers” of their time, just as we now welcome Syrians, Iraqis, and others to our community. Many of these men were responsible for carving the architectural and sculptural features of some of America’s major buildings and monuments of the Victorian era, including the New York State House in Albany and the Pilgrim Monument in Plymouth.
Today I want to remember three of these individuals through the words of their obituaries in the Hallowell newspapers of the early 1900s.
One of the saddest deaths recorded in our city is that of Archille Falconi, one of the best-known Italian residents, who died at home after a long battle with consumption. Mr. Falconi was a sculptor by trade and came to Hallowell from Italy more than 25 years ago to engage in work for the Hallowell Granite Works. He was an expert statuary cutter and displayed a genuine ability in modeling subjects in clay. He was deeply interested in all matters pertaining to the craft and the rights of labor organizations.
Protasio Neri, a skilled statuary carver, who had been at work here since 1879, died at his home on Warren Street after a long illness. Mr. Neri was born in Levigliani, a suburb of Carra, Italy, June 23, 1850. He learned his trade in that center of marble works and then in New York City. He was one of the finest Italian workmen to come to Hallowell. Among the first work he executed was a marble bas-relief for the famous Plymouth Monument, and one or more figures. In this and the numerous statutes executed, there was an honesty of workmanship most commendable. Mr. Neri was an exemplary citizen.
Peter Pellegrini, one of a group of pioneer statuary cutters, came here thirty years ago when the late Governor Bodwell was executing the Pilgrim Monument and other notable structures. He died at his home on Winthrop Street Saturday evening after a long illness with stonecutter’s consumption. He was a man of robust health until two years ago, and of great natural ability. He came from Barga, Italy. Of late years, he had been retained by the Hallowell Granite Works on many notable contracts, which testify to his skill and faithfulness. As we celebrate Hallowell’s granite heritage with this Granite Symposium, let us recall the contributions of these and many other talented immigrants to shaping the community that we enjoy today.
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. Maine State Historian