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Historic Scotland masons help out in Harlem

13 August 2010

Historic Scotland stonemasons travelled to the United States recently to help train young people in Harlem, New York. 

Kenny McCaffrey from Cupar and Malcolm Hutcheon from Insch worked with young people learning masonry and preservation skills through the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC). One of the key aims of ADC is to achieve revitalisation of the community through focussing on the physical infrastructure. 

To help achieve this, ADC has implemented Youthbuild, a nationally recognised workforce development initiative providing training for ‘at risk’ youth. 

As part of the trip, which was organised by Historic Scotland, workshops were held at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, where the Scottish team worked with Chris Pellitteri the Cathedral’s stone carver in residence, to help share advice and expertise on stonemasonry with local young people. 

Malcolm Hutcheon said: “We did two skills workshops in Harlem which were really well attended. It was fantastic to be able to work with the guys to help them learn more about traditional building crafts.

“The programme is about helping to give young people more confidence and it was great to see that they really appreciated what we were teaching them. I hope that it inspires them moving forward.”

A key part of the visit focused on skills that can be transferred into caring for other buildings within the area and visiting ongoing projects. A large part of housing stock in Harlem is of ‘brownstone’, much of which was in the hands of the city when the ADC was launched 20 years ago. Now less than 30% of the housing stock is owned by the City of New York and the ADC has provided more than 1,000 units of affordable housing. 

Ian Walker, Head of Traditional Building Skills at Historic Scotland said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for our team to share skills with young people in New York and to visit many of the projects that will benefit from the training of a new generation in traditional skills.

“The Abyssinian Development Corporation were extremely supportive. They set up a number of activities outwith the site visits and workshops to enhance their stay in New York including meeting with representatives from local engineering and architecture companies.

“All of these links are extremely valuable and provide an opportunity to share expertise and discuss common issues. We hope they will provide the foundations for more exchanges in future.” 

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