Protasio Neri and Italian stonecutters


Protasio Neri, Hallowell, ca. 1892

Protasio Neri, Hallowell, ca. 1892
Item 31934   info
Hubbard Free Library

Protasio Neri (1850-1905) began working for the Hallowell Granite Works in 1879. Born in Levigliani, Italy, he came to America with his parents in 1877 at the age of 27. In Italy, Protasio worked in the marble quarries of Carrara, famous for providing the stone used by Michaelangelo. Neri was one of the first Italian artisans to arrive in Hallowell.

Neri was heavily involved with unionizing granite workers into the Granite Cutters Union to protect their wages, reduce working hours, force regular pay dates, ensure quality, and formalize an apprenticeship system. Some cutters were not making living wages and the work was liable to end at any time, among other issues. Neri spearheaded a 5 ½ month lockout in 1892.

Neri lived in Hallowell until his death in 1905. In addition to his Union work, he was a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Masonic Lodge; he was noted as an exemplary citizen. He and his wife, Giselda Neri, raised five children in Hallowell.

The population of Hallowell changed during the early 19th century with the influx of immigrant labor from Europe to work in the granite industry. When the granite industry declined, many Italian immigrants left Hallowell, but some, including the descendants from the Neri, Arata, Masciadri and Rich families still live in Hallowell today.

Warren St. School, Hallowell, ca. 1890

Warren St. School, Hallowell, ca. 1890
Item 33679   info
Individual Partner

Waves of European immigrants swept into the United States to escape the poverty and oppression of their homelands. Italians moved to Maine, finding work with the railroads, mills, factories, and granite quarries. At Hallowell Granite Works, the workforce was multi-national, coming from Italy, Scotland, Spain, Canada and England. 

Faith, National Monument to the Forefathers, Hallowell, 1877

Faith, National Monument to the Forefathers, Hallowell, 1877
Item 29250   info
Hubbard Free Library

Skilled stone carvers from Italy came to Hallowell and other Maine granite and marble quarries to carve statues, monuments, and columns for important Federal and public building projects, carrying on the long carving tradition of their home country. Carvers were the elite workers at a quarry.

Statuary cutter Joseph Archie stood on a 36-foot sculpture, part of a project commissioned by the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Italian immigrant Protasio Neri supervised the carving of the project’s base statues.

Workers, Hallowell Granite Works, Franklin Street, ca. 1895

Workers, Hallowell Granite Works, Franklin Street, ca. 1895
Item 29248   info
Hubbard Free Library

The workers at the Hallowell Granite Works were multi-national. The majority of cutters and quarry workers came from Italy, Scotland, Spain, Canada and England.

Italians composed the largest group of sculptors and cutters and averaged between $2.80 and $3.20 a day in 1901. Descendants from the Neri, Arata, Masciadri and Rich families still live in Hallowell today.

Hallowell Granite Works stone yard, Hallowell, ca. 1895

Hallowell Granite Works stone yard, Hallowell, ca. 1895
Item 29200   info
Hubbard Free Library

The stone yard, located on the west side of Franklin Street in Hallowell, was surrounded by three stone cutting sheds, a power plant and the Hallowell Granite Works office. The overhead walk at the top of the photo connected the office to the sheds.

The back of the photograph identifies Tom Stafford as the team driver and Frank Kitterage as the man in the suit.

Hallowell Granite Works carvers, ca. 1895

Hallowell Granite Works carvers, ca. 1895
Item 29247   info
Hubbard Free Library

Skilled stone carvers from Italy came to Hallowell and other Maine granite and marble quarries to carve statues, monuments, and columns for important Federal and public building projects, carrying on the long carving tradition of their home country. Carvers were the elite workers at a quarry.

Spring and Summer, Hallowell Granite Works, ca. 1900

Spring and Summer, Hallowell Granite Works, ca. 1900
Item 29252   info
Hubbard Free Library

The U.S. Geological Survey in 1923 noted that Hallowell Granite lends itself remarkably well to delicate ornamental work and statuary. It is known for its fine grain and light gray color.

"Spring and Summer" are examples of corner sculpture incorporated into a building. Ornate granite cornices were produced as well. Although the destination of "Spring and Summer" is not known, similar pieces produced by the Hallowell Granite Works can be found as part of the Hall of Records in New York City.

Maternity, Hallowell Granite Works, ca. 1895

Maternity, Hallowell Granite Works, ca. 1895
Item 29254   info
Hubbard Free Library

"Maternity" is an excellent example of the skilled carving done at the Hallowell Granite Works. One of the best known sculptors was Archille Falconi. He was an expert statuary cutter and also displayed a genuine artistic ability in modeling subjects in clay. In 1887 the Hallowell Register noted that Falconi had completed his model of the fruit piece he would carve to be placed over the entrance to the Metropolitan Art Building in New York City.

Moving Granite, Outer Winthrop Street, Hallowell, ca. 1890

Moving Granite, Outer Winthrop Street, Hallowell, ca. 1890
Item 29253   info
Hubbard Free Library

Moving granite the from the Stinchfield and Longfellow quarries on Lithgow Hill (known today as Granite Hill) to the Cutting Sheds was a challenge. The 2 1/2 mile route along Outer Winthrop Street contained wetland and a steep grade. Heavy traffic damaged the road to the extent that the Hallowell Granite Works signed a contract with the City to maintain it year-round. Traveling down Winthrop Hill required horses on both ends of a load. Amina Neri witnessed carnage on Winthrop Hill when she was a young girl. In the 1960's she recounted stories to neighbors about horses being mangled when loads got away.

National Monument to the Forefathers model, Hallowell, ca. 1889

National Monument to the Forefathers model, Hallowell, ca. 1889
Item 29249   info
Hubbard Free Library

The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889. It was initiated by the Plymouth Society and carved and assembled by the Hallowell Granite Works. It stands 81 feet high and weighs 180 tons. Faith is the central figure and Morality, Education, Law and Liberty surround its base. The base statues are fifteen feet high and weigh 20 - 25 tons each.

The model shown differs from the finished Monument, one example being that Faith's arm and hand are held at a different angle.

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