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Learn How to Clean, Repair & Preserve Historic Gravestones & Cemetery Monuments of all Types and Ages.



Gravestone Conservation Workshop Scheduled in New Paltz, NY-  for October 19-20, 2015

Gravestone Preservation Workshop- October 19-20, 2015

October19-20, 2015
New Paltz, New York

Historic Huguenot Street
88 Huguenot Street
New Paltz, NY 12561

More info will follow ASAP............

This workshop will provide two days of hands-on training on the conservation and maintenance of cemetery monuments and gravestones. Jonathan Appell will lead hands-on, interactive training for participants, covering topics including how to re-set stones, repair to fragmented stones, appropriate repair materials, use of infill material, and methods for re-pointing and cleaning masonry





Gravestone and Monument Repair Workshop- May 26-27,, 2015
Instructed by Jonathan Appell, Monuments Conservator.


Gravestone Conservation Workshop Scheduled in Martinsburg on Sept. 26

The Trustees of the Norborne Cemeteries in Martinsburg, WV are sponsoring a day long workshop on gravestone preservation. Jonathan Appell, nationally known gravestone and monument preservation expert, will present the workshop.  Register at the Eventbrite page.

Read about him at

Learn how to safely clean, level and repair headstones and monuments. The workshop will teach basic conservation and repair techniques. At a slow-working pace, all techniques will be described in detail as work is performed. Different types of repairs will be shown representing various types of work commonly needed in historic cemeteries.

Participants will learn:

Materials needed

Safe cleaning techniques

Hands-on skills in resetting a tablet stone

Joining broken gravestone fragments

Pros and cons of using epoxy

Replacing eroded or lost stone

Cement and concrete vs headstones

Old Norborne Cemetery was laid out by Adam Steven, founder of Martinsburg, Virginia (now West). It was established by an enactment of the Virginia General Assembly as a burying ground in 1778. There approximately 1,111 graves in the “Burying Ground” The oldest marker is dated 1800. Veterans from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Civil War (both Union and Confederate), WWI and WWII are intered here.

Lunch Included!

Extreme inclement weather may cause a change of date.

Additional Donations Gratefully Accepted!!

Have questions about GRAVESTONE PRESERVATION WORKSHOP? Contact Trustees of Norborne Cemeteries


Gravestone Conservation Workshop Scheduled in Colorado Springs, Colorado

on October 9-10, 2015

Gravestone Restoration and Preservation Workshop

October 9th-10th of 2015
Evergreen Cemetery
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
The Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society is hosting a two- day gravestone  preservation/restoration and repair workshop at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO.
Contact info: Evergreen Cemetery Society-                    or Jonathan Appell , 860-558-2785
Jon taught this class last year at Evergreen Cemetery and the information we came away with is allowing us to repair more stones than we thought possible. I can’t say enough of Jon’s knowledge and training. Jon Appell has been teaching classes across the country for over sixteen years.
In taking this workshop you will come away with the knowledge you need to care for your own historic cemetery by learning the tools and techniques in proper gravestone repair. Many historic gravestones have been destroyed due to untrained individuals and incorrect techniques. This is a hands on workshop where you will be working on actual stones that will be the same type of stones in your own cemetery.
The cost of the class will be $150 for one day, or $250 for 2 days per person. This will include breakfast and lunch each day. If you plan to attend only one day you are able to attend either day, as there will be review on the start of day 2.
Mailing Address: C/0 Dianne Hartshorn,  2620 South Blvd,  Colorado Springs, CO 80904
About 65 pages of printed materials are also included to each person in attendance, covering conservation, history, historic mortars, cemetery safety a materials list and more.
If you are in need of hotel accommodations, please contact Dianne, and I will work with assisting you in finding rooms.

Gravestone Conservation Lecture &  Workshop Scheduled in Cane Hill, Arkansas

on October 23-24, 2015

 AHPP  cemetery preservation workshop. Cane Hill, Washington County, Saturday, October 24 and a lecture on cemetery materials and maintenance the evening of Friday, October 23.

Information on registration and agendas will be forthcoming.
Any questions can be directed to Holly Hope at 501 324-9148 or e-mail



Typical 3 Day Long Workshop Schedule:

This outline will act as a general guideline for the content of the workshop. Due to the variability found in every graveyard there are many unknown factors, which are impossible to predict. This can complicate and alter the time required to perform any specific task. Therefore, the exact time- table and schedule may be altered, but all of the techniques and treatments will be conducted, or if not possible discussed and demonstrated  during the course of the entire workshop.


Day 1:

9AM-9:15- Introductions, workshop overview, basic logistics


9:15- 10:30- Walking tour of the oldest area in cemetery.

  • Topics will include
    • Basic geology relating to gravestones, monuments, and historic masonry.
    • Typical gravestone and monument styles and common problems associated with them will be discussed, including historic metal pinning, historic mortars, lawn mower issues
  • Stones will be selected as candidates for treatments.
  • Questions and discussion is encouraged.


10:30- 10:45- Short break for attendants, cleaning materials are set up.


10:45- 11:15

  • Documentation and assessment
  • Photography and proper lighting
  • Employing a mirror to improve lighting


11:15- 12:15

How to clean gravestones: including marble, sandstone, granite and all historic masonry.

  • The philosophy of cleaning gravestones will be discussed, and safe- cleaning techniques will be demonstrated on a stable gravestone, which will benefit from the cleaning treatment. Attendants will perform cleaning of additional gravestones, which are deemed safe to be cleaned without doing harm.  The various kinds of staining will be discussed, comparing atmospheric and biological cleaning problems and solutions.
  • A biological cleaning solution will be employed for applications on lichens, molds, fungus, etc
  • Stone cleaning poultice also discussed and demonstrated for difficult to clean details is carved stone and objects.


12:15- 1PM- Lunch

  • Afternoon treatment tools and materials are set up.


1PM- 2PM

  • Raising, re-leveling and re-setting gravestones
  • How to repair fallen gravestones without inflicting further damage to the stone without any lifting equipment, provided they are not too massive is size.


2PM- 3PM

  • Repairing fractured gravestones and monuments
  • Surface preparation of mating surfaces, removing old repair adhesives which have failed. Problems with removing hard and Portland Cement based mortars. 
  • Stone epoxies, pros and cons and proper mixing and application


3PM- 3:10 PM- Short break



  • Setting & re-setting of multiple piece monuments often composed from marble.
  • To pin or not to pin, that is the question.
  • Raising and leveling of base stones. Leverage and setting bar styles, sizes and usage.
  • Joining monumental elements. Options for joining monumental elements, traditional materials and techniques vs
  • modern setting materials and techniques. Application and use of monument setting compound, stone epoxy used in mating application, the need for spacers between stone elements, issues with plastic spacers, advantages of wedge lead.



Day 2:


  • Resetting tablet stone into slotted socket base including mixing and application of a historic pointing mortar, pointing, re-pointing and tooling mortar joints, protection  of mortar for curing



  • Mortars, a historical overview on lime mortars
  • NHL mortars & Natural Cements
  • Problems with Portland cement on historic stone
  • Infilling, creating mortars, color matching and application


11AM- 12:15

  • Problems with fractures at ground level
  • Options for reinforcement of tablet stones
  • Creating a cast replacement socket base with wood forms or earth form


12:15- 1PM- Lunch

  • Afternoon treatment tools and materials are set up.


1PM- 1:30PM

  • Overview on lifting of heavy stones and other objects
  • Understanding the lifting tripod, including chain hoists, slings and basic rigging safety issues when working with heavy weights


1:30- 3PM

  • Rigging and resetting of a fallen multiple piece monument
  • Discussion on ferrous and non-ferrous metal pinning sometimes used historically to mate stone elements
  • How to use pads and softs to protect stone


3PM- 3:10 PM- Short break


3:10 PM- 4:30PM

  • Problems with repairing stones, which have been imbedded in concrete
  • Alternative techniques to work with large monolithic stones, and previously puddled stones
  • Leverage with large setting bars
  • Re-leveling of large monuments without overhead lift



Day 3:

9AM- 10AM

  • Removal of form from newly cast base on day 2
  • mortar mixed and applied
  • tablet reset into new base
  • mortar joints tooled



  • Problems associated with sealing of stone
  • Discussion on rising damp and the need for breathability
  • Stone consolidation overview
  • Consolidation of a marble gravestone



  • Alternative cemetery monument re-setting techniques
  • Raising onto blocking without overhead left
  • Cleaning and preparation of mating surfaces
  • Lowering headstones off blocks without inflicting damage


12:15- 1PM- Lunch


1PM- 4PM

  • Group interactive working experience employing numerous skills learned throughout the workshop
  • Limitations and dangers of working with large and very heavy objects stressed
  • Tripod will be employed with focus on setup and safety
  • Students perform all tasks with supervision


4PM- 4:30 PM

  • Review, questions and answers


Workshop Logistics:

  • Each attendant will receive a folder of printed materials.
  • The workshop will be a hands on, interactive event.
  • You are welcome to tape, photograph or video the workshop as desired.
  • All tools and materials are provided.
  • Please dress for working outdoors as weather can be variable.
  • Bring gloves, wear sturdy shoes to work in.
  • Sun and bug spray if desired


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cemetery Workshop

What? That sounds strange to you? Well, cemeteries are actually the site of a lot of preservation. The elements can cause quite a bit of damage to that headstone, add in time, neglect, settling ground, expanding tree roots, abrasive cleaning, and the unfortunate occasional vandalism, and you've got some work to do.

This past August Leadville was the site of the annual Preservation Trades Network symposium. Lucky for me, I was able to get some real hands-on experience my first week of school. One of featured workshops was the 'Cemetery Preservation Workshop' led by Jonathan Appell, an expert in the field of both cleaning and restoring deteriorating monuments in aging cemeteries.

I gotta say this workshop was really fascinating. Restoring monuments in cemeteries is far from any image I have in my mind when I think Historic Preservation, but when you think about it, it certainly fits right in.

Here's a question for you...What would you say is the most common material used for headstones in U.S. cemeteries today? Marble you say? Well actually, very little marble is used in American cemeteries today, (though it used to be) it is in fact barred in some states altogether. The most common material used in U.S. monuments today is granite. Granite is extremely strong and will show very little weathering over the course of many many years. As we learned throughout the day, typically headstones were made of whatever material was available to the geographical region. With the connection of train lines however, larger and more varied materials were used for monuments as they were more accessible. As seen in the Leadville cemetery, marble, zinc and granite were the most common materials used for headstones. (We're talking about 100 years ago)

In addition to the above mentioned enemies of monuments, water is any mason’s biggest foe. Water can come from below, or through the ground into the structure. It can come from above, in the case of rain, and more specifically today, acid rain, and it can come from within as in condensation. Water can draw out the salts of the material, and cause rapid deterioration.

In addition to learning all about the materials and history of U.S. cemeteries, the participants got to work on 3 different monuments. I'll share the details of the largest one we worked on.

You can see the challenge we faced. This marble headstone had fallen off of it's base and substantially sunken into the earth. This was a pretty big monument, I couldn't see how we were going to get this sucker out of the earth and back onto its base without throwing out a few backs. Jonathan must have some magic that I was anxious to see.

The first thing we did was dig up around the monument to clear some of the earth so that we could get under it with a level and pull it up out of the ground.

We then cleaned off the marble using a soft brush and water, using care not to be abrasive as this could cause further damage.

Then Jonathan pulled out his magic. He demonstrated how to use a tripod to lift the headstone onto the base after the cleaning and leveling of the two fragments. This was a simple yet effective process for using a pulley system to lift the very heavy stone.

Before placing the monument back on its base, we applied a monument setting compound, epoxy and very small pieces of lead to the base of the monument to allow the headstone to secure to the base, and to allow for proper fitting of the two fragments. The base retained it’s metal pins, which the headstone was reaffixed to. After joining the two pieces, we cleaned off the compound, and that was it, done!

Pretty cool huh. It was actually much easier than I would have thought. Though this workshop was only one day, I learned a ton. My favorite part though, was meeting the wonderful man that takes care of the Mason's tract at the cemetery. He's been coming here for many years to clean and preserve all of the headstones associated with the Masons. He doesn't get paid, and no one asked him to do it, he just wants to. He's made makeshift wooden signs for those missing their names, he waters the lawn, cleans the monuments etc. He just happened to be there that day, and after talking to him for a bit, he decided to join our session and learn a few things himself. What an amazing man!





Breathing New Life Into Montana's Cemeteries

By KFBB News Team

Montana has thousands of historic cemeteries in need of repair and maintenance, and on Friday, a nationally known gravestone and cemetery care expert held a workshop at the Benton Avenue Cemetery in Helena to share his special knowledge.

They seem strong and durable- built to last forever- but gravestones become fragile over time and require lots of care if they are to remain precious pieces of history. Graveyards contain within them priceless historical information, and gravestones are often the only thing remaining in their original locations from previous generations. However, some worry that our graveyards are already in an advanced state of decay, and they recognize the risk of losing this history if something is not done about it.

Jonathan Appell, an expert on cemetery conservation, explains, “How we treat our history relates to how, you know, our society is as a whole. I mean, there’s so much that’s lost, so much historic material has been lost. Our history reflects on, you know, our attitude of the present and future.”

Appell dedicates his life to the preservation and restoration of cemeteries. He spreads his knowledge by holding workshops across the country and teaching others techniques such as tombstone repair, care and cleaning of headstones, and how to conserve and maintain cemeteries.

He explains, “We cover many different subjects. It's a really diverse kind of subject matter that ties together historic masonry, touches on archaeology, burial traditions, ichnography is touched on, so it’s many, many different disciplines are touched on.”

Appell says he recognizes that we live in a world where environmental elements are a source of degradation, land development infringes upon graveyards and diminishes their historic perspective, and changing attitudes towards death and burial customs leave few opportunities available for those who want to safeguard our heritage carved in stone.

He says, “It’s kind of a specialized niche, and there’s not many people that specialize in it. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of funding in many areas that are designated for this, and therefore, you know, it often times falls between the cracks, if you will.”

Appell’s workshops receive positive feedback, and those who attend say it makes them feel good to breathe new life into what are essentially open air museums.

Leonard Thomas, Superintendent of the Hillcrest Cemetery in Deer Lodge, says, “You know, a cemetery is a place to come to reflect on life, not death.”

Zena McGlashan is a writer from Butte, currently working on a book about cemeteries. She explains, “Our cemeteries are a metaphor for our past, and if we don’t respect our history, then we lose a lot in the translation.”



Repair and restore

Modern builders preserve history by learning skills, methods used in the past

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 15 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT


EPHRAIM — They don't build things like they used to.

While that can be a good thing for modern buildings that can have more strength and structure, it can be not-so-good when it comes to repairing, restoring and renovating things built in the past.

Sometimes new ways of construction are diametrically opposed to methods used in the past, and using those methods and materials on old things can do more harm than good, says Russ Mendenhall, director of the Traditional Building Skills Institute, based at Snow College.

Take something as simple as old gravestones, for example, he says. Many of the gravestones in the old pioneer cemetery in Ephraim are made of soft limestone, which can weaken and crumble over time. But repairing them can be tricky. "Using modern materials against that soft stone can actually cause more destruction."

So, on a recent weekend, several interested participants attended a workshop at the cemetery to learn appropriate methods of repair and restoration for old gravestones.

The workshop is the latest addition to the curriculum of the TBSI; instructor for the course was Jonathan Appell, a monument worker based in West Hartford, Conn., who has become involved in monument preservation in a big way. He's been doing it full-time since 2000, and now gives workshops all over the country. "We are thrilled to have someone of his caliber here," Mendenhall says.

For Appell, it's all about conserving, preserving and increasing the public appreciation of the history found in a graveyard. "It is next to impossible to protect an open-air museum, such as a burying ground, from all the potential causes of degradation," he said.

Weather, erosion, acid rain and local pollution and composition of original materials all can contribute to problems over the years. "Yet proper maintenance will go a long way toward helping preserve our heritage carved in stone. And techniques used for modern monuments are not always appropriate."

Over the course of the three-day workshop, students learned how to dig under foundations to straighten tilting stones; how to glue broken pieces together with a special epoxy; how sand and gravel make better fill than dirt; how sometimes a small slab must be sacrificed to stabilize and anchor the whole. Sadly, they also learned that not everything can be fixed.

"I learned a lot about taking care of old stones," said Shane Davis, who works for Ephraim city and cares for the old cemetery.

"My wife and I are sextons of the Newton cemetery," said Dan Douglas. "We learned much more here than we expected. There's no sense in doing things wrong. This should be required for every cemetery worker in the state."

"It was an outstanding workshop," added Dave Bernhisel, a member of the Farmington City historic Preservation commission. "We learned great skills that we can put to use tomorrow."

Why bother to fix old and worn stones?

"Cemeteries are for the living," Appell said, "which is why we are willing to go to so much time and effort to preserve them. So much of the original natural fabric of the past lies undisturbed here. Cemeteries appeal geographically, aesthetically, on so many different levels."

Over the years, he said, he has learned that "the way people treat the past says a lot about how they will deal with the future."

And that, Mendenhall says, is at the core of the Traditional Building Skills Institute.

The program was established in 1996 at Snow College, as a partnership between the college, the University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning and the State of Utah Historic Preservation Office.

An impetus for the program was the fire in the Governor's Mansion, explained Diana Spencer, a retired English professor, who is on the TBSI board. "When they started to restore the mansion, there weren't enough craftsmen in the state who could do the work, and they had to bring in people from out of state. Wilson Martin, with the Utah Historic Preservation Office, is really the father of the program. He thought we should come up with a way to develop our own craftsmen."

Since its inception, the program has grown from offering a handful of workshops each year to offering several dozen, teaching such things as log cabin restoration, historic masonry, ornamental stonework, wood windows and millwork, timber framing, tile painting, stained glass, wood furniture and more.

"A lot of our instructors are people who have been doing their trade for years, and some have felt that their craft would die with them," Spencer said. "They are so happy to teach others these old skills."

In addition to workshops, TBSI has recently added an associate degree program, which offers students even more options. "As more commercial buildings and homes qualify as historic sites, more workers are needed to meet the needs of restoration and preservation. Our program is for students interested in this growing industry," he said.

Their TBSI program is the only one of its kind in the West, he said. "We've grown steadily, and we have a good footing."

Another successful addition to the program in recent years has been an annual trip (sometimes more than one) to England and Wales to work on preservation projects. That, he says, is a great opportunity for students to see very old construction. TBSI is also exploring a project working on Pacific Coast lighthouses, Spencer says.

"It's an outstanding program," says Keith MacKay, owner of State Stone in Salt Lake City and a member of the TBSI board, who has also been involved in restoration work on the Governor's Mansion, the Nauvoo and Vernal temples and more. Speaking as an employer, he said, "in the past I've had to hire people and then train them." To be able to hire people who already have the skills is a huge boost, and a time-saver. "This is a profession with lots of jobs, and skills are needed."

The underlying premise of TBSI is, as its mission statement notes, the "understanding that our historic built environment enriches the lives of citizens and communities."

Whether it is gravestones, log cabins, old churches or businesses, homes or schools, these things tells us who we are and where we came from, he says. The Highway 89-plus corridor from Sanpete County down to Kane County was designated as a National Pioneer Heritage Area in 2006.

In some ways, Mendenhall says, "We've had preservation by way of poverty. Towns couldn't afford to tear down buildings and replace them with new ones."

But now, more and more people realize what treasures they are, he says. "This is really something we all put our hearts and souls into."





Jonathan Appell's Workshop at Forest Hill Cemetery


After a week of rain, the clouds parted on Saturday, June 13, 2009 and we had a beautiful sunny day for the workshop.                                  

The next two photos are of  Jonathan greeting the attendees.

Next we took a stroll through the historic area looking at & evaluating various stones.  Here Jon with town historian, Richard Holmes,  show the group the only "Zinker" in Forest Hill Cemetery.  We then had a discussion about zinc 'stones'.  Overheard were "Gee, I wish they made them today as I'd like one for myself".  I agree!!  You can see others that I have photographed in other cemeteries in my Virtual Cemetery on Find A Grave.

Below,  Jonathan is scraping the lichen from a stone using a PLASTIC (never use metal) scraper.  Then he cleans the gravestone using D2 & water with a soft kitchen brush.

Now it's time for the group to get to work.  Oh? You didn't know this was a hands-on affair?  They did seem to enjoy it so much so that we nearly didn't get to straighten or restore other stones! 


 Not many before cleaning photos were taken as we didn't know exactly where we'd be working but you can see what a terrific job D2 does on removing lichen on the stone of Randal Alexander.  Here are some of the supplies that Jonathan used.  Photo taken by Ken Tarbox and used with his permission



 Straightening Gravestones

 We learned that gravestones leaning backward or forward are in more danger than those leaning side to side.  Here we see the stone of Agnes Morrow which was straightened.  We learned that when removing a stone one should carefully rock it side to side.


 We then moved on to straighten Jemima Hunter's stone.  Her husband, Robert Hunter, was one of two known soldiers from Derry who died in the Revolutionary War.

Below T.J. is removing soil from around the base while trying to preserve the grass.  This is a job for two people thus Richard is bracing the stone while the soil is removed.



Here Jonathan is removing the stone from the ground.  Notice that he is removing it side to side.


Now it is time to dig a new hole.  Measurements were taken of the base of Jemima's stone and then T.J. got to work & dug the hole.  Here he is measuring to make sure it is deep enough.  Photo courtesy of KenT.


 This is a work in progress..... more photos to be added when I have time

©2009 - 2012



Cemetery preservation workshop sponsored by historical society

Cemetery workshop
Gravestone conservator Jonathan Appell conducts a workshop at Wildwood Cemetery in Beckley.

By Suzanne Higgins

June 20, 2010 · Thousands of abandoned, forgotten, and neglected cemeteries dot the landscape of West Virginia. Some are family plots; others once belonged to churches that have long since closed, or towns that are no longer.

A Raleigh County Historical Society county-wide survey recently located more than 200 small cemeteries. 


“We were shocked at how many we found and the condition of the large majority,” said Scott Worley, historian for the society.


Worley says vandalism, overgrown trees and bushes, staining of the stone, and broken bases and statues can all be corrected. But if done improperly could cause additional, irreparable harm.


A recent workshop sponsored by the society brought in an expert to share the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of cemetery preservation.


Under the hot June sun a group of about sixty, some with buckets and brushes, gathered at Wildwood Cemetery in Beckley, one of the oldest in the area. It’s the resting place of the wife of the town founder, Alfred Beckley.


“Preservation is more of an archeological aspect, kind of carrying over the museum ethic into the outdoor environment of a graveyard being an open air museum,” said gravestone conservator Jonathan Appell of Connecticut.


“By watching me do something they will learn a lot more than reading it in print, by helping do it, they will not forget what they did.”


Appell’s mantra throughout the day-long workshop was “first, do no harm.”


Attendees were encouraged to document the location of the grave, to record all information from the stone, and to take pictures before and after treatment.


They were warned about scrubbing too hard which could literally wear the stone down to the point of wiping off the inscriptions.


They also learned there are several acceptable cleaning solutions on the market for the various stones found in cemeteries, but bleach is never acceptable.


“My great grandparents are buried in the cemetery of Mount Hope,” said participant Sandy McIntyre from Mt. Hope.


“I remember my father said he helped his mother take care of the graves and I can see from what’s planted there some of the things my grandmother probably planted, so I have a real attachment to that place and that cemetery,” she said.


The National Park Service sent Mark Bollinger, stationed at the New River Gorge National River.


“There were 75 coal mines at one time in the park; in fact we have 67 cemeteries in and on the borders of the park,” said Bollinger.


“These people are gone but somebody has got to take care of their history so people a hundred years from now will know that somebody worked in the coal mines here in West Virginia in the New River Gorge,” he said.


Spring Hill Cemetery Park in Charleston sent its entire crew.


“As the families come to the cemetery they see our workers out there doing various types of repairs and maintenance, they’ll ask us questions,” said Perry Cox, Spring Hill Superintendent. “So by us attending these workshops we’re able to answer their questions correctly, and assist them in maintaining the memorials to their loved ones.”


The Raleigh County Historical Society hopes workshop participants will go back to their communities and pass on the information.


Worley said both the stones and the stories they tell are important to preserve.


“The inscriptions on the stones give a little glimpse into the life of that person,” he said.

“You can look at the style of that stone and see how that person lived, you can look at the locations, you’ll have generations all together.”


“They really tell a lot about West Virginia and how close our communities and our families are.”


Preserving history, headstones

Published: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 4:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 at 11:30 p.m.

Jonathan Appell, a gravestone conservator, rocked the headstone from left to right as a group of 27 visitors looked on during a gravestone conservation workshop Friday at Oakdale Cemetery on Sixth Avenue.

Enlarge |

Jonathan Appell, a gravestone conservator, gets ready to reset a gravestone during a gravestone conservation workshop at Oakdale Cemetery on Friday. The workshop went over ways to clean, repair and reset gravestones.


“Just don’t force it,” he said.

Appell worked quickly to straighten the stone, which was leaning precariously forward. He said the headstone was made of Georgia marble. First, he pushed gravel and sand around the stone to keep it level. Then, he replaced the dirt and the grass. Afterward, it looked like little had been disturbed.

“I put on workshops like this all over in historic graveyards,” Appell explained.

Appell is from Connecticut. In 1987 he founded the New England Cemetery Service. As the owner/operator he installed, reset and restored monuments across Connecticut. Now, he travels the country, giving workshops on how to conserve gravestones without damaging them.

On Saturday, he demonstrated the use of D2, a biological solution which loosens mold and fungus from stone without damaging it. He sprayed the solution on the newly righted gravestone and gently scrubbed the stone, using a soft brush with natural bristle. As he used water to wash away the solution, the stone became cleaner and lighter.

“It’s respecting the heritage,” Appell said. It also corrects safety concerns, when stones could topple.

He emphasized the need to respect the headstones. Older headstones showing deterioration need to be gingerly cleaned and handled. He showed the workshop attendees how to dig around a headstone, then gently move, level it and straighten it.

For more information about gravestone preservation and conservation, visit


Bear Creek Cemetery

Collin County, Texas — Established 1873

Gravestone Restoration Workshop — April 29, 2011


In 2011 the Collin County Historical Commission chose Bear Creek Cemetery as one of two places to hold a day-long workshop on Gravestone Restoration, led by Jonathan Appell. This was a hands-on workshop, and Jon not only told us how, he demonstrated cleaning, levelling, and repairing three badly damaged markers.We are very pleased with the results!
Learning about various materials and styles of gravestones.
Using a mirror to make invisible markings readable. Cleaning stone with D2
Using a homemade tripod to easily lift very heavy stones.
Tilted 3-piece stone repaired and levelled.
Upright stone re-united with its base, and base levelled and repaired.

June 24, 2011 8:00 AM CDT


Saving Miss Emily

Rehab/Restoration case studies


By Jonathan Appell



“Miss Emily,” a 19th century marble box crypt tomb and memorial in Decatur (Ga.) Cemetery, marks the grave of an unknown child. The above-ground monument is styled to look like a tomb but is, however, an empty as the remains of the departed are buried underground, beneath the lower slab of the box.

According to the cemetery superintendent, the tomb’s lid, measuring about three feet wide, six feet long and two inches thick, had been disturbed by vandals who shifted and dislodged it in an effort to reach any existing contents. The cemetery staff had realigned and straightened the shifted top repeatedly, but eventually found it shattered into more than 14 pieces on the ground.

In spring 2009, I was contracted to repair and preserve the heavily damaged historic monument through collaboration between the Decatur Preservation Alliance and the City of Decatur. The largest portion of the fractured top already had been lifted back into place, at the head of the tomb, by cemetery staff. The second-largest of the broken pieces was positioned at the foot of the tomb, above a piece of plywood, also covering the gaping hole that the shattered section had once spanned.

Inside the box were dirt, debris and 10 small pieces of marble, also referred to as “fragments,” which had been placed inside the box prior to the plywood top.

Looking for a solution

Looking for a solution

A Solution

The project’s primary focus entailed joining the 14 fragments back into one piece, then lifting it into place, adhered and centered on the lower base section. The repairs needed to be performed in a way that would last, which also would greatly minimize the chance of future vandalism. An innovative plan was needed.

A quality stone epoxy was selected to join the broken pieces together, Akemi, Akepox 2030. Epoxies are, by far, the strongest adhesive used for joining stone. Historically, mortars often were employed for this purpose, but in order for a mortar to have high strength, it needs to be about one-quarter-inch thick, which would push the fragments apart, resulting in unsightly joints.

Drilling holes and installing blind pinning, often composed of some kind of metal, is a common method used to invisibly reinforce a broken stone. Although the concept is to add support with an internal frame, it also can have the effect of weakening the stone along a fault line. Once a hole is drilled into an object, it is forever diminished, and the alteration is non-reversible. If the repair fails at some future date, the stone often will splinter out into small chips projecting from the pin holes, complicating future repair treatments.

The decision was made to construct an internal masonry structure to help support the marble top in order to allow some internal movement from changes in humidity and temperature. Dry-fit cement blocks, natural stone blocking and shims were fit to match the exact height of the sidewalls. Thin lead shims also were fitted to fine-tune the internal support structure to match the sidewall height.

All of the fragments were cleaned prior to being joined together. Marble is highly prone to erosion from any form of acid. A product called “D2 Biological Cleaning Solution,” which is non-acidic and safe for all masonry, was applied to clean the fragments, lightly brushed and rinsed. A small plywood platform was constructed beside the tomb. All of the small fragments were carefully joined together with the stone epoxy.

After the epoxy cured, the repaired section was lifted onto the top and dry fitted with the other 2 large pieces of stone. Some warping and hairline cracks also had occurred, so lead shims and padded bar clamps helped align the top after the epoxy had been applied to one side of each mating surface along each fracture.

Once joined together, little chips and missing stone became visible along the joint lines. A composite stone repair patching material was used to in fill the voids. Jahn’s Restoration Mortars are cementitious, mineral-based mortars formulated to match the porosity, texture and color of the substrate being repaired. Jahn’s M120 Marble Repair Mortar was applied to the dampened surface, left higher than the stone surface and, after beginning to dry, cut down flush to match the stone. It then needed to be kept moist with light repeated misting, for at least a few days, in order to cure properly.

Although all the individual fragments had already been cleaned, many were still soiled. D2 was liberally applied to the entire tomb, late in the day, and then left well covered overnight. The following day, the entire top had turned orange. When working with D2, a change on color is a good thing, it means the biological growth is being killed off, and the smell it produces also is memorable. After lightly hand brushing and rinsing well, the marble top began looking white again, although another interesting attribute of D2 is the continued cleaning action to the masonry for a month or longer.

The final treatment performed was the application of a product that consolidates, strengthens and provides protection from weathering and acid resistance. Conservare HCT was applied with a hand pump sprayer to the entire tomb, in multiple applications until rejection, followed by HCT Finishing Rinse.



The Result

I returned to Decatur, Ga., recently to perform another project, and I looked in on Miss Emily. Two years have passed, and the tomb is still undisturbed and clean.


Leaving no stone turned down

Volunteers restore historic graveyard

A gravestone (left) under repair by a group of trained volunteers stands alongside a restored marker in Newburyport’s Old Hill Burying Ground. A gravestone (left) under repair by a group of trained volunteers stands alongside a restored marker in Newburyport’s Old Hill Burying Ground. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)
By Joel Brown Globe Correspondent / November 18, 2010

NEWBURYPORT — It’s a beautiful fall morning in the graveyard, brightly colored leaves drifting down in the sun. But the people at the Old Hill Burying Ground haven’t come for the fresh air, or because it’s Halloween. They’re there to straighten up. Literally.

Tilted and toppled gravestones are made vertical again. Broken slate and marble slabs are put back together with epoxy. The markers for Patrick Bresnehan (who died in 1802), Nathaniel Sargent (d. 1858) and Hannah Plummer (d. 1779) are among those repaired this day.

“We just have to look at it one stone at a time,’’ Ghlee Woodworth said, looking across the historic burying ground at dozens of stones that still need help.

The Old Hill Gravestone Restoration project would be worthwhile for the end result alone, supporters say. But in a time of tight budgets, the workers are all volunteers, and they’re stretching a few tax dollars a very long way.

The project was funded with $10,000 from the city’s Community Preservation Act program last year. With the work of volunteers young and old, the project has succeeded so well — more than 300 stones restored — that people from other communities are coming to learn how it’s done, so they can replicate it back home.

A Newburyport native, Woodworth spent more than a decade in her dream job, traveling the world as a field worker and trainer for the Peace Corps. Shortly after she moved back to town in 2005, she took over the Tiptoe Through the Tombstones historical tours that her father, Todd, had been running since 1988.

“I love the research, I love history, I love being outdoors,’’ Woodworth said.

The tours were primarily in private Oak Hill Cemetery, where she works part time on various preservation and research jobs.

She’s even written a book, “Tiptoe Through the Tombstones’’ (, about the historic figures buried there. Eventually she added the circa 1729 Old Hill, between Auburn and Greenleaf streets next to Bartlett Mall, to her tours.

Woodworth knew of the need for restoration at city-owned Old Hill, but she also knew how expensive it could be, after a professional restoration at Oak Hill cost $20,000 and fixed just 51 gravestones. In 2008, she attended a workshop on basic gravestone restoration techniques led by Jonathan Appell in Portsmouth, N.H.

Appell, a gravestone conservator from West Hartford, Conn., gives dozens of workshops to train volunteers when not conducting his own high-end conservation projects.

“Every town in America has at least one and in many cases multiple old graveyards and rarely do they have funds to do much of anything’’ to maintain them, Appell said. “It’s unrealistic to think anything is ever going to get done if volunteers are not involved in some aspect of it.’’

“I thought, OK, we can do this,’’ Woodworth said. She wrote the application for the Community Preservation Committee grant, which included having Appell give workshops for her Old Hill volunteers.

The work is simple, if time-consuming. If a stone has snapped off its base, the channel in the base must be cleared, mortar mixed, and then the stone reinserted and braced until the mortar dries. The steep slopes of Old Hill create a lot of leaners; putting them right involves volunteers inserting gravel and sand underneath to create a new, level base.

Gravity, the freeze-thaw cycle, and vandals are all culprits in the deterioration of the stones, but Woodworth and some of the volunteers point to lawnmowers as the worst offenders.

A broken stone is the trickiest project, requiring a prepared surface, a thin coat of epoxy, then careful clamping. Every stone is different, and solutions are often improvised.

“With every single stone we do, we’ve got to make decisions,’’ Woodworth said.

Triage requires a cold eye. One stone had shattered into numerous pieces, and the decision was made to simply bury them around the base, so at least they’ll be there when someone has time to solve the puzzle.

In Newburyport, the Community Preservation Act program is funded by a 2 percent surcharge on real estate taxes, with the first $100,000 valuation exempted, and an annual matching grant from the state. The city’s committee sifts through requests for the money, which can be spent only on local affordable housing, recreation, open space, or historical preservation efforts.

With 150 or so stones awaiting repairs at Old Hill, Woodworth is beginning to turn her attention to the nearby Highland Cemetery, another city-owned property where she estimates 600 to 700 stones need work. That project just received a $2,500 grant.

And the Old Hill project is having an effect beyond Newburyport. People from Salisbury, West Newbury, Danvers, and even Duxbury have heard about Woodworth’s work and attended a workshop or a volunteer session, coming away energized to start projects in their own communities.

“I learned that it is not rocket science to mend gravestones,’’ said West Newbury resident Susan Follansbee. “It doesn’t take an awful lot of physical strength even, for most of the stones.’’

Follansbee’s focus is the Quaker Cemetery on Turkey Hill Road in her town. The tiny, wooded graveyard near her home has roughly three dozen stones, with a number in need of repair, but there’s no longer a local Quaker group to look after it. Even its ownership is in doubt, Follansbee said.

So she led an ad hoc group in repairing seven stones this summer. They also fixed a few stones in a small private graveyard nearby. Follansbee said CPA money might be available in her town, but so far she has spent only $35 on materials, “hardly worth bothering them for.’’

Next year, she wants to conduct a more thorough search of the Quaker grounds in hopes of finding nine headstones missing from their bases, she said.

“It just seems as though any historical cemetery should be taken care of,’’ Follansbee said. “These were very real people. They were neighbors of my ancestors, probably friends of my ancestors. I don’t like to see old things abandoned.’’

Joel Brown can be reached at


Tama monument workshop drew from across the state

October 10, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

TAMA NEWS-HERALD- The monument workshop held on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23 and 24, drew participants from all over the state of Iowa. The major attraction was the presenter, Jonathan Appell. Appell is recognized nationally as the definitive expert on monument restoration.

The workshop was primarily hands on with most of the time being spent at the Oak Hill Cemetery. The group learned how to level a tipping monument. Mr. Appell demonstrated this on both a small monument and one weighing over one ton. He used only the principle of leverage in the process.

The group was surprised to find how many stones had a base that had sunk completely below ground. In some cases, that hidden base carried the last name of the person buried there. They also were pleased to discover an easy way to clean stones so that the inscription becomes visible.

This event was sponsored by the City of Tama and the Oak Hill Cemetery Association.


Article Photos

Jonathan Appell levels a monument in Tama.
-Photos provided


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Tombstone resurrection: Noted conservator visits Perryville cemetery

October 29, 2011|By MANDY SIMPSON |
  • Conservator Jonathan Appell points out decorative etchings on a tombstone in Perryville's Hillcrest Cemetery Friday.
Mandy Simpson photo







PERRYVILLE — A crowd appeared in Friday’s rain, hunching over headstones at Hillcrest Cemetery. But their goal had nothing to do with any spooky Halloween traditions.

The only thing the group of 25 hoped to bring back to life were the tombstones.

Participants in a Preservation Kentucky workshop led by gravestone conservator Jonathan Appell spent Friday and Saturday in Perryville learning how to clean and repair broken and weathered tombstones and monuments.

Former long-time Perryville resident Georgeanne Edwards said she and Perryville farm owner Scott Hankla spent years trying to bring such a workshop to the city because of the sheer number of historic tombstones around town.

“When I lived in Perryville, I saw stones overturned, and it broke my heart,” Edwards said. “It was our history. There are names of people buried there (whose descendants) still exist in town today.”

Edwards and Hankla made their case to Amy Potts, director of the Preservation Kentucky Rural Heritage Program, who was able to book Appell for the workshop with the help of sponsors, including Perryville Main Street and several local funeral homes.


Appell, a historic stone conservator and founder of New England Cemetery Services, travels the country with his workshops and said he was pleased to be in Perryville teaching a diverse group of people from city residents to University of Kentucky historic preservation students.


“I’m always happy to help educate people wherever it is,” he said.

During the lessons, Appell discussed the materials required and the process involved in replacing eroded or lost stones with the use of a composite stone in-fill material. He also emphasized the need to use mortars in repair work because they are compatible with the historic fabric of most stones.

Additionally, students got hands-on experience with cleaning techniques for gravestones and sculptures, including using safe materials such as poultice, non-ionic detergent, architectural antimicrobial substances and calcium hypochlorite.

“We don’t want to use any harsh chemicals on any of the historic stones,” Appell said.

He noted that every county and city in every state has different regulations regarding cemetery upkeep, so workshop participants will have to research such policies before using their new skills on any local tombstones.

But UK graduate student Katie DeBiase said she was just grateful to have the hands-on experience provided in the workshop.

“We’re in our first year where everything is pretty theoretical,” she said. “So this gives us a chance to get out there and get some practical experience.”

Hankla, on the other hand, owns a farm that’s been in his family since 1779 and contains Goodnight Cemetery, where about 10 tombstones sit is various states of deterioration.

“I’m going to repair those stones,” he said.




Brighton Historical Society Teaches Public How to Preserve Gravestones

The Gravestone Preservation Workshop Monday that drew more than 20 people from surrounding areas.

Old Village Cemetery - the oldest cemetery in Brighton - is getting a makeover thanks to the Brighton Area Historical Society (BAHS).

Many of the headstones inside the cemetery have fallen over, are broken or are leaning in their plots. After several years of annual spring clean-ups at the cemetery, fixing the headstones is the logical next step, according to Jim Vichich, president of the BAHS.

"To me, it's not very respectful when headstones are leaning or broken, because cemeteries should be taken care of," Vichich said. "Well all governments are in a challenge financially right now because of manpower and funding. The historical society recognizes that and we're ready to step in to try working on the improvements for that."

With that in mind, the BAHS hosted a Gravestone Preservation Workshop Monday with Jonathan Appell, a professional conservator from West Hartford, Connecticut. Appell has worked on some of the oldest cemeteries in the country. Appell travels all over the United States training people on cemetery preservation.

"History is important to give us a grounding for where we are today, we we've been and where we're going in the future," Appell said. "Often times the gravestones are the oldest surviving objects from bygone eras. I learn history backwards off the stone. Many times they're the only record that exists. It's a record of individual peoples' lives, but it reflects architecture and styles, the stones that were available in that time, religious symbolism which is reflected in the iconography on the stones and on and on. It's a big subject."

Appell said that rains and acids cause the most damage to cemetery headstones. There is also rising damp, where moisture rises out of the ground with salts mixed in.

Appell got to work after a presentation to more than 20 people from Brighton and surrounding areas, demonstrating the process on the oldest headstone in Old Village Cemetery.

The headstone was actually lost until several years ago, when the city partnered with the historical society to redo one side of the cemetery. In the process, they used a big shovel to rip up roots and overgrowth. The headstone was discovered buried about a foot and a half down, according to Vichich. The equipment also broke the stone when it was discovered.

Vichich said the historical society also discovered a discrepancy in St. Paul's Episcopal Church records when the headstone was uncovered. All records say that Truman Worden died Nov. 29, 1837. His headstone reads Nov. 29, 1838.

Appell put Brighton resident Bob Knight to work digging a hole to reposition the headstone in the ground.

Knight attended the workshop as a member of St. George Lutheran Church who is interested in learning how to repair the cemetery there.

"I see all of this and I'd love to come in and have the time, to just work here to fix it," he said. "Because I think it should be done in honor of the people here, just to make it look like a very nice cemetery. I think it should be done out of respect for the dead. And I'm sure most of the people in here don't have anybody to do it - or care to do it."

Vichich said this project will be decade long undertaking for the historical society.

"It's a very extensive problem in here," Vichich said of the leaning, broken headstones. "So it's going to take time. And the key thing to remember is that this damage didn't happen in 10 to 15 years. It's been going on every spring and fall when you have freezing and thawing."

The biggest cost for the historical society is labor, which they have in the form of volunteers. Everything else is coming out of the historical society's treasury right now, Vichich said.

The historical society first got involved with the cemetery three years ago because of its historical significance as the oldest cemetery in Brighton.

"We determined that this was something we wanted to take on as part of our contribution to the city because of all the founding fathers buried here," Vichich said.

Old Village Cemetery boasts a governor of Michigan and a Civil War Hero - Lt. Col. John Gilluly who died in the battle of Fredericksburg.

"What was reknowned about him was that he taught school in Brighton and got his law degree from the University of Michigan, so he was a practicing attorney," Vichich said. "Then he went and joined the call for arms that the president asked for."

For more information on the Brighton Historical Society, visit