Scots Stonemasons who helped construct the White House honoured in Edinburgh

Skilled stonemasons who helped construct the White House in the 18th century have been honoured in their home city of Edinburgh.

A group of six members of Edinburgh Lodge Number 8 travelled to the USA in 1794 and carried out elaborate carvings on the facade of the structure.

Their work included the Double Scottish Rose which features on many different parts of the building.

A plaque in their honour was unveiled on Friday at 66 Queen Street in Edinburgh, a building once worked on by stonemasons John and James Williamson who were part of the six-strong group.

Alex Paterson, chief executive of Historic Environment Scotland (HES), was joined by Stewart McLaurin, president of The White House Historical Association for the unveiling.

Mr Paterson said: “Skilled Scottish stonemasonry was highly sought-after during the 18th century, and the important work undertaken on the White House demonstrates its lasting global significance.

“At HES, as well as highlighting the historic importance of Scottish stonemasonry, we are committed to keeping traditional skills alive.

“We are helping to sustain stonemasonry and other traditional craft skills in a range of ways: from our training and apprenticeship programmes, including our partnership with Forth Valley College and our dedicated Conservation Centre in Elgin, to the research and cutting-edge technology at the Engine Shed, Scotland’s first building conservation centre.

“This plaque is a fitting tribute to the pioneering Scottish stonemasons of over two centuries ago, and I hope it will provide inspiration for our next generation of craftspeople to carve their names in history.”

Earlier this year Charles Jones, technical conservation skills programme manager and time-served stonemason at HES, followed in the footsteps of the Williamson brothers when he was commissioned to carve a replica Double Scottish Rose by the White House Historical Association during a Symposium.

The replica is now on display in the White House Visitors Centre.

Mr McLaurin said: “The stone masons of Scotland today are the legacy of great craftsmen from the 18th century who came to Washington and created the beautiful carvings that we still see on the White House.

“The Double Scottish Rose that we see on every pilaster is a Scots wink from those stonemasons and we were thrilled to have a reminder of that extraordinary stonemason talent.”

The story of the stonemasons is explored in a new exhibition now on display at the Engine Shed in Stirling.

The Scots Who Built the White House examines the role played by these Scottish stonemasons in the construction of the building and how their legacy survives in modern Scottish stonemasonry.

Exhibits on display include the 18th century masons mark book containing mason marks of both John and James Williamson, and the meeting minutes book where the trip was discussed, both on loan from Edinburgh Lodge 8.

A replica of the Double Scottish Rose, carved by HES stonemasons, will also be on display.

The exhibition is on display until Friday April 12 next year.

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