The Masonry of Munich

When a masonry blogger goes on vacation, she takes way too many photos of masonry during her travels.  Needless to say, when I recently visited Bavaria (with a day trip to Salzburg, Austria), I photographed a lot of masonry buildings.  To mix things up a bit here at the Masonry of Denver, I thought I’d share some of the more interesting masonry structures I saw on my travels.  First up: The Masonry of Munich.

The last time I visited Bavaria was in 1999.  At that time, I didn’t digest the fact that most masonry structures in southern Germany and northern Austria are clad with stucco.  Stucco is not my favorite building material, but the stucco on German and Austrian buildings is often textured with sand or pebbles, or the stucco is pigmented.  It’s more interesting than your average stucco, but it’s still stucco.  Fortunately for us, everything in Munich isn’t covered in stucco.  And better yet, several incredible buildings survived World War II.

Take this beautiful stone building, for example.  It is on Thierschstraße in the Altstadt-Lehel neighborhood of Munich.  According to a Google search, it was built in 1889 and was designed by architects Albin Lincke and Max Littmann.  My German is non-existent, but it seems that these two gentlemen designed several prominent buildings in Munich in the late nineteenth century.


The beige sandstone used to clad this building is lovely, but the carvings are just wonderful.  These strong men (and a cherub) frame the entrance and support the oriel window on the second floor.


The stone carving is even more intricate at the top of the building, where you can see an angel blowing into a metal trumpet, a cherub supporting a cartouche, ornate palm fronds and foliage, brackets with lions heads, and some of the most fanciful urns I’ve ever seen.



Symbols on Grave Markers

Next time you walk into an historic cemetery, take a look at some of the symbols on grave markers.  Many of them are typical symbols of mourning, death, faith and the after life.  We are going to explore some of the more common funerary symbols, as well as some unique markers that you can find in Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery.

There are several websites that can help you decipher the symbols on graves markers, including the Cemetery Club and  But the most useful can be found at Grave Addiction because they provide photographs of each symbol.

Common Symbols on Grave Markers

Walrod-draperyDrapery is one of the more common symbols of mourning. has a good explanation why drapery is such a common symbol on grave markers:

“In the days when the body lay in state in the parlor, it was the custom to cover everything in black.  Draperies, with their fancy frills and tassels, are more elaborate than a simple shroud.  They allow the expression of mourning to linger long after the body has been taken out the front door and the accoutrements have been stowed for the next death in the family.”

 This marker at the left is dedicated to Frank C. Walrod, who died in 1895, and his wife Kate, who died in 1903.


Williams-lambLambs convey innocence and purity.  They are a Christian symbol (lamb of God), but apparently lambs have been used as funerary symbols since pre-Christian times.  Lambs are almost always used on the graves of children.  This grave at the right is dedicated to David Ralston Williams, who died in 1909 at thirteen months of age.


Margaret-scrollScrolls, especially scrolls that are rolled on both ends, symbolize the time span of a life, with the past and the future hidden.  An alternative interpretation is that scrolls symbolize the scriptures.  This grave marker at left dates to 1925.


Kenneth McDonald Building in Boulder

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a college friend who lives in Boulder with her husband and their adorable son.  Before I headed back to Denver, I had some time to wander around the city.  Much of the building stock in Boulder dates to the late twentieth century, but there are several interesting historic buildings downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods.

This small sandstone structure was one of the first that caught my eye.  The Kenneth McDonald Building, at 1039 Pearl Street, houses The Kitchen restaurant.


The base of the building is cast iron, but the second floor and cornice are a lovely red-orange sandstone that has delicately carved ornament.  The top of the building has the name Kenneth McDonald carved into a frieze flanked by two wreaths surrounding the numbers 18 and 99.


Although the façade suggests that the building was erected in 1899 by Kenneth McDonald, the Kenneth McDonald Building is actually an earlier structure.  According to the City Planning office, the building appears on the 1883 Sanborn map of Boulder – the city’s earliest detailed map of buildings – and was owned by Anthony Arnett.  It was probably erected in about 1880, or a few years earlier.  Arnett was an early settler of Boulder.  He came west during the California Gold Rush, but settled in Colorado in the late 1850s when he realized he could make money investing in mines and ranching.  Arnett later purchased and developed real estate in the Boulder area.  In the mid-1870s, he built the Arnett Block (which later became the Arnett Hotel) at 1025 Pearl Street just to the west of the Kenneth McDonald Building.  In 1899, the building at 1039 Pearl Street was purchased by Kenneth McDonald.  McDonald was a miner who opened a saloon on the ground floor, and had the existing building refaced with red sandstone.

Over the past 115 years, the sandstone has fallen into disrepair.  Dark carbon deposits have formed on the bottom of the cornice, and erosion is typical at the cornice and parapet levels.  Open joints also allow water to travel deeper into the masonry.


But much of the carving is still as crisp as it was the day it was erected.  The crisp details of the foliage on the impost block, below, looks as though the carver recently put down his tools.  The carved stone behind the foliage is also crisply textured, while the egg-and-dart moldings surrounding the arched windows have had almost no erosion.  The durability of the stone, combined with Boulder’s arid weather, have allowed this building to outlast many of its owners.  Hopefully with a little bit of repair work, the building will outlast the current owners, too.