Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 34

An Immigrant's Story
Here's a story I never knew, until I started working on this article. It's gleaned
from a 2003 interview conducted by
Philip "Ted" Coyle, with Frank Troitino,
a nephew of the Spanish stonemason
Joe Troitino, who was involved in building 75 percent of Blue Ridge Parkway
stonework built between 1935 and
1969, his nephew estimated, and much
of it thereafter, until his death shortly after the parkway was completed in 1987.
Joe Troitino first came to the United
States in 1914, at age 14; because he
was too young to work, he faked his
birth certificate. He and a friend returned to Spain briefly, and were barred
from re-entry to the United States
because the friend's visa had expired.
They went to Canada, where Joe's U.S.
visa also expired. When they tried to
sneak into the country at Niagara Falls,
they were arrested and jailed for six
months before a Catholic priest was able
to spring them. Thereafter, they worked
in Vermont stone quarries and West
Virginia coal mines, and as stonemasons,
skills they had acquired in Spain. When
they got word of a roadbuilding project
through the mountains in Virginia and
North Carolina, they applied for parkway stonemasonry jobs and got them.
The friend died young, but Joe Troitino
continued to do government contract
work, not just on the parkway but in the
Smokies and in Washington, D.C., into
his 80s.
Frank Troitino, who also worked on
the parkway as a stonemason, explained the fine points of early parkway
stonemasonry to Coyle. Stone had to
be quarried within 50 miles of where
it would be used: that was a parkway
requirement. Masons split the rock into

Of the U.S. 421 bridge near Boone, North
Carolina, Frank Troitino said the rockwork
was too uniform, and was not a parkway
"old job. . . . not the way they taught us."

blocks by hand to parkway specifications: blocks had to be a minimum of
six inches tall and could be one and a
half, two or three times as long as tall,
but no "big, enormous rock" anywhere.
The masons took particular care, too, he
said, that joints were uniform.
By the time the double-span U.S.
421 bridge and its extensive retaining
walls-all rock faced-were constructed,
blocks were machine-cut, and, he
thought, minimum block height had
been reduced to four inches. For that
much rock work, block dimensions
should have been larger. The uniformity
of the rock work makes it look "more or
less like a fireplace, not a real Blue Ridge
Parkway old job." People like it, he said,
but it's "not what they taught us."
-ECH

...They were living, breathing
beings whose spirits seemed to
hover just beyond the lamplight.
34

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

to the point where the only solution to its
lamentable shape is to privatize and sell it
to the highest bidder?
It was past noon; I had miles to go even
to reach my turnaround place. I crossed
the state line into Virginia and drove under the beautiful double-span bridge that
carries Va. 89 over the parkway and the
creek that runs alongside it; past Puckett
Cabin, home to a mountain midwife who
successfully delivered more than a thousand babies without losing one of them,
but none of whose own children survived
infancy; past Groundhog Mountain picnic area, with its exhibit of the various
styles of split rail fencing that parkway
landscape architects discovered on mountain homesteads.
Just north of Meadows of Dan, I crossed
the four lanes of U.S. 58, and noted the
grassy shoulder that continues across the
bridge-a parkway signature-and how,
unless you think to look left or right
over the rock walls, you don't even realize you're on a bridge. I'd meant to turn
around there, but decided to continue
past Mabry Mill, a landmark where many
modern day parkway visitors choose to
stop awhile (that day was no exception),
to the turnoff I used to take to the Parkway
Housekeeping Cabins.
The signposts for the cabins remain,
though the sign itself is gone. I'd stayed in
the cabins many times; since they closed,
I've sadly missed them. Why not take a


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018

Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 6
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 8
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 10
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 11
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 34
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 37
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 39
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 73
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 74
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover4
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