Stonemason flies to White House to carve historic rose
A Scots stonemason has been flown to the White House to recreate a white rose that sits above the front of the presidential palace that was first made by Edinburgh craftsmen in the late 18th Century.
Charles Jones, from Carnoustie in Angus, was invited to replicate the carving in tribute to the skilled Scots who went to Washington to help build the White House more than 200 years ago.
The Double Scottish Rose was used as a motif throughout the building by the stonemasons, who were headhunted for the Washington job in 1794 given their experience of working on the New Town.
Mr Jones has spent the past week in the White House garden working on a replica of the original rose design with hopes to put his finished piece on permanent display in a museum on Capitol Hill.
Mr Jones, a stonemason with Historic Environment Scotland, speaking from Washington, said: “It’s been an amazing experience. I have literally been carving this at the bottom of the White House garden. It’s been surreal, like a dream.
“I suppose I am following in the footsteps of the Edinburgh stonemasons coming to the White House. They came over, worked and most of them returned to Scotland and their families. I will go home after a similar experience.”
Mr Jones was invited to Washington for a symposium organised by The White House Historical Association, which has done much research on the links between the presidential palace and the Scots who helped create it.
With Scots considered among the greatest stonemasons in the world, the commission leading the White House project hired an Edinburgh merchant to track down a suitable team. The craftsmen were found through Edinburgh Lodge Number 1, the oldest masonic lodge in the world, which had a chapter solely made up of working stonemasons. With work on the New Town drying up due to the Anglo French wars, eight to 12 men flouted a travel ban to head to Washington.
Mr Jones said: “The stone they would have used here is of similar consistency to what we have back home. I am sure the Scottish stonemasons would have been pleasantly surprised by that.”
The men carved the rose into the garland above the North Door, on the pilasters, and at the tops of the portico columns.
Mr Jones, who travelled with his own mallet and chisel but has borrowed some tools from National Park staff, has been well positioned to view the original above the front door.
He added: “When we need to double check the detail, we just have to take a wander round and get our ladder out.”
Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, said: “The stone masons of Scotland today are the legacy of great craftsman from the 18th century who came to Washington and created the beautiful carvings that we still see on the White House.
“The Double Scottish Rose that we see on every pilaster is a Scots wink from those stonemasons and we are thrilled to have Charles Jones remind us of that extraordinary stonemason talent.”