The Mendon Historical Society and the Mendon Historic Commission teamed up to host a workshop on Gravesite Maintenance at Bicknell Cemetery on Sunday, June 12, 2022.
The workshop was held by Gravesite Maintenance Experts Betty and Carlo Mencucci of Burillville, RI. They are members of the Association for Gravestone Studies and bring their research to practice by restoring entire gravesites throughout New England. You can read more about Carlo and Betty here!
Attendees were instructed in the care and maintenance of headstones and monuments of various materials, with a focus on marble and slate which are very common in historic gravesites.
The Do’s and Dont’s of Cleaning Headstones:
- Do not power wash headstones! Power washing is too abrasive and deteriorates the stone, often washing away inscriptions and markings.
- Do use a bucket of water with a hand pump and gently rinse the headstone.
- Do not use bleach! Or other acidic cleaning chemicals. Marble is alkaline. When acid is applied, it deteriorates the stone, melting away inscriptions.
- Do use D/2 Biological Solution, which kills mold, mildew, lichen, and other fungus. Marble is porous and will absorb the D/2 solution, which penetrates deeply and works over a long period of time to kill organisms. D/2 treatment will reach full effect after 1 year and should not be done again for 5 years after treatment.
- Apply the D/2 after washing the headstone with water (this breaks surface tension and allows the D/2 to better absorb into the marble). Wait 5 minutes after applying D/2 to begin scrubbing with a plastic brush and water.
- Do not use metal scrapers or bushes when removing lichen, moss, and other grime!
- Do use a plastic scraper or nylon brush, which will not grate or scratch the stone.
- Come back in 6 months to see your work!
Betty and Carlo also demonstrated how to re-set fallen headstones. Marble and Slate headstones often rely on gravity to stay in place, but are often moved by tree roots and soil erosion over time. The entire base must be removed from the ground, re-leveled, and adhered using proper materials. Do not use masonry mortar. A monument setting compound is used, which creates a molecular bond between the two pieces of stone that is more resilient against weather and temperature fluctuation.
Slate slabs are slightly different from marble in that they do not have a base. 1/3 of the slab sits in the ground, which holds it in place. To re-set a slab, it must be completely dug up and re-set with compacted dirt and gravel.
The Mendon Historical Society, the Historic Commission, and all participants are grateful to the Mencucci’s for their time and informative instruction. While the 26 attendants made a small impact on Bicknell Cemetery, there is a lot more work to be done throughout the gravesite. Mendon has 17 cemeteries, therefore the scope of this restoration work is huge! Gravesite Restoration Etiquette dictates that we receive permission from the proprietors of the gravesite in need of work. We look forward to collaborating with gravesites throughout town by offering future Gravesite Maintenance events. Our mission is to foster community involvement and continue our efforts to preserve Mendon history.