A Manassas stone carver has left his mark on some of Washington, D.C.’s best-known landmarks with the help of a large dose of perseverance and commitment to high-quality, old-world artistry.
Andy Del Gallo, owner of Eastern Memorials/Del Gallo Studios on Va. 28 in Manassas, recently ended all the guesswork for visitors to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington who searched the steps for the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech 40 years ago this summer.
Del Gallo, 38, carved a 24- by 10-inch inscription on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial between July 21 and 25 to commemorate King’s famous words delivered at the memorial Aug. 28, 1963, during the March on Washington. The inscription reads: “I Have a Dream/ Martin Luther King Jr./ The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom/ August 28, 1963.”
The inscription was proposed in legislation passed by Congress in 2000, according to National Park Service Project Manager Glenn DeMarr.
The Park Service advertised for the project and solicited bids, DeMarr said. Samples were then judged on the basis of letter depth, quality of carving and what DeMarr described as “artistry in the carving itself.”
Del Gallo’s next big project locally will be the Manassas Veterans Memorial scheduled to be unveiled in November.
Before the King project, Del Gallo had competed with other stone carvers in the area for various commissions in Washington and had slowly built a reputation with his performance on smaller jobs.
Born and raised in Arlington and a graduate of Washington & Lee High School, Del Gallo started out in Washington, D.C., with Dutchman carvings on the Treasury Building, a memorial for the late Treasury Secretary Henry H. Fowler, lettering on the D.C. Convention Center, the State Department and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He also did extensive lettering work on memorials for World War II veterans at Arlington National Cemetery for more than 10 years.
His business originally started out in Falls Church in 1998, operated out of the back of a truck. It was 2? years later that he opened up shop in Manassas.
In 2001, Del Gallo won the commission to carve the George Mason Memorial, located south of the Jefferson Memorial along the Tidal Basin, after another carver had already been awarded the job. Del Gallo sent in a sample of work and convinced the Park Service to consider his bid.
The commission for the King memorial came shortly after Del Gallo lost a bid for the World War II Memorial currently under construction on the Mall.
Using a vinyl stencil to prevent his guides from washing away in the event of rain, and sheltered from the hot July sun by a blue tent, Del Gallo spent 40 hours carving the original lettering that had been designed specifically for the King project. The lettering was modeled after a typeface Del Gallo used to carve the lettering on the George Mason Memorial.
The design of original typefaces and hand-carved ornamentation are two old techniques that Del Gallo touted as a key characteristic of his work. In a time when many memorials and monuments are painted to look carved, Del Gallo prides himself on his mastery of older artistic touches including an emphasis on meaningful symbolism and ornamentation, techniques such as bluing that permanently makes lettering look darker without the help of paint, and an approach to business that engages the client.
Working on the King memorial gave Del Gallo the opportunity to interact with many people who stopped to watch him work. He said it was “one of the most memorable things in my life,” and said many people took time to share their stories about King with him.
“That’s what I love about lettering; I don’t know what it is, but people love to see someone working on stone,” Del Gallo said. “Stone art just rings of permanence and history.”
Despite all the attention while he was working, Del Gallo said his time in the spotlight faded quickly once the tent and cones were removed when a few visitors walked right over the inscription.