ORLAND, Maine — The FBI Academy will soon have a memorial honoring its history built by a local stonemasonry company and several other Maine businesses.
Workers at Freshwater Stone of Orland have spent the past five months crafting what they’ve taken to calling the FBI Quantico Memorial, and are beginning to disassemble the massive structure for shipment to the academy’s campus in Quantico, Virginia, in mid-September. At 14 feet tall and 23 feet long, weighing about 60 tons and with an odd propeller shape, the sculpture is easily the largest and most complex the 43-year-old company has ever built, said John Horton, the company’s architectural stone manager.
Set to be the focal point of a memorial garden and courtyard that will honor the FBI, its history and principles, the sculpture will feature quotes from FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freshwater Stone is among a half-dozen Maine firms that collaborated in its creation, company owner Jeff Gammelin said.
“There is definitely a sense of pride. It makes it special to have your work displayed at a facility like that,” Gammelin said.
The company used computer-driven saws that needed 63 million lines of computer code to sculpt the monument. The monument’s primary elements, 15 blocks of Virginia Mist granite, are huge, with an average weight of 8,100 pounds, or four tons. The heaviest is 12,611 pounds, or six tons, according to Freshwater Stone. Each block features vertical and horizontal curves that made simple things, such as drawing straight lines of text over several blocks, dauntingly difficult, Horton said.
“Each one of these compound curves had to fit into the next one, and into the next one, and so on, all within a millimeter’s tolerance,” Horton said. “And all of them have to fit together. If one of them is off, then none of them fit right.”
Freshwater Stone is best known for its part in creating the $2 million Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial by the marathon’s Boylston Street finish line, veterans memorials on Bucksport’s harbor walkway and in downtown Southwest Harbor, the granite work in the lobby of Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and for repairs to bridges at Acadia National Park. With some machines working around the clock, the company cut the FBI monument’s granite for almost 1,000 hours before the stones were ready for finishing.
The monument was designed by Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions Inc. of Portland and landscape architect Studioverde of Cumberland Center. CCI Solutions LLC of Augusta hired Freshwater Stone, which in turn hired several Maine subcontractors, to give the memorial final form, Horton said. Studioverde and CCI Solutions approached Freshwater Stone last fall, and construction of the memorial began in March.
Citing security concerns, the FBI compelled the contractors to work in secret until about a week ago, Gammelin said, and some questions remain unanswered.
No one at Freshwater Stone knows precisely where on the academy campus the memorial will be located, for example.
One of the subcontractors, Bucksport Monuments owner Chuck Downes, said he was thrilled to be part of the project.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Downes said.
The subcontractors Freshwater Stone brought in are an indication of the precision the project required. Each firm is among the best at their particular specialties, Horton said.
Downes’ company handled the sandblast etching of letters, including the large and rather complex FBI logo, on the monument. Jesse Salisbury, a professional sculptor from Steuben, was brought in to assure the proper disassembly and transport of the memorial.
The memorial includes about 40 feet of wall and three benches on which visitors can sit. The company will use seven trucks to ship it to Virginia, and it will take two days to get there.
Gammelin and his wife, Candy, formed Freshwater Stone after building a fireplace for their own home in 1976.
Today, the company employs 63 full-time workers at its facilities in Bucksport and Orland and pulls granite from four quarries in Maine. Much of its business involves building and installing fireplaces, landscape stonework, siding and veneer on residential homes, and flooring, Gammelin said.
The work is as much artistic as it is functional, he said.
“People come to us for little things. We do memorials for people and pets. We do a lot of restoration work like on Acadia National Park bridges and carriage paths, and we have done a lot of work on Martha Stewart’s and Nelson Rockefeller’s homes,” Gammelin said. “We have a lot of long-term employees who have kept the tradition alive, and we are looking for others who might be interested in learning it.”