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2015-01-29

St. Joseph's School & LeStourgeon Masonry - two traditions meet

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

St. Joseph's School played a key role in the life of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church parish since it's erection in 1922. Hundreds of local residents learned the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, along with their faith foundations at the school.
Recently, the parish has invested time, money and artistry in refurbishing and remodeling the staunch stone building on the corner of 7th Street and Cedar in Bandera. It was built according to plans by Magnus Johnston who scaled down his original design for the two-story Bandera Schools building, now on the Middle School Campus.
Cecil LeStourgeon and son, Tony, of Medina, have provided a lot of local history themselves. As part of one of Bandera County's premier masonry families, the LeStourgeons have a history of doing the rock work on many local homes, businesses and government buildings. Those buildings include big jobs like the Jail and Justice Center, Boyles Hardware and Bandera Electric Cooperative, as well as smaller projects like the pedestals for the historic markers in the city's Heritage Park.
It seems appropriate, therefore, that LeStourgeon Masonry would be selected to clean and re-point the elegant two-story school house.
Tony, who pretty much runs the business today, was excited and proud to be able to work on a building that showed evidence of an earlier generation of masons who took a similar pride in their work.
"These stones were hand-shaped," he explained. Laid like bricks, the creamy limestone blocks are not a veneer. They average about 15" by 47" by 12" inches deep. Some, such as the entrance arch lintel and the window sills, are six to eight feet long and probably weigh a thousand pounds or more.
"It's something to think about," said Cecil. "How they managed to cut, haul and lift into place these heavy stones. They didn't have cranes in those days."
Giving the building a good clean via pressure wash, the LeStourgeons removed all the accumulated greying of the years to make the elegant structure look as bright and clean as the day it was completed 93 years ago.
The pressure wash also removed some of the old grout between the seams, revealing the original masons' technique for leveling those heavy stones.
"We figure they used iron bars to rock a stone back and forth, inserting small stones in the seams until it was solid and level," explained Tony. "Then they sealed the seam with cement grout."
The building was so well built that only one small crack, in a window sill, could be found in the entire structure.
The LeStourgeons are curious as to how deep the concrete footings run beneath the walls. "They're carrying a lot of weight," Cecil said.
When asked how long the new grout he was placing on the building's seams would last, Tony calmly replied, "Another hundred years. Guaranteed."
LeStourgeon Masonry can be contacted at 830-796-0755 or 830-589-7729.