Garden Stonework in Mardi’s Yard

Over the last several years Hammerhead Stoneworks has worked closely with garden designer Mardi Letson, owner of Gardens by Mardi. The images below are from garden stonework projects we’ve done in her own yard. Mardi has a wonderful sense of design and can integrate plants into stonework wonderfully. She’s very talented and very easy to work with. She is especially good at working with small spaces as is demonstrated in her own yard. Her yard is not huge by any means, but it has so many little rooms and small special places to hang out.

The Finished Garden Stonework Products

garden stonework

Dry Stone Wall in Mardi’s yard


Stone slab steps at Mardi's

Stone slab steps at Mardi’s


Dry-laid flagstone path

Dry-laid flagstone path featuring the heart-shaped rock Mardi requested

Stone Steps and Pathways on Historic Kimberly Avenue Home

The owners of a historic home on Kimberly Avenue recently commissioned Hammerhead for a project. We got to work designing and constructing stone steps and a walkway while the home was undergoing a renovation. Chuck Krekelberg of Samsel Architects led the renovation project while Alan Roderick of Heartwood Renovations took charge of the building.

Trying to match the look and style of the existing foundation served as a particular challenge during this project. We mixed several mortars until we found the correct ratio of lime and various sands to match the existing mortar in both color and texture. Though time-consuming, a good ratio was developed, and it ended up being used as a base for stucco repairs on the home as well.

Griffin Award-winning Project for this Historic Home

The Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County awarded the Kimberly Avenue residence a Griffin Award in ‘the rehabilitation of a historic residence’ category. The attention to detail by all the craftspeople working on the project certainly paid off! This recognition of our work certainly makes us proud.

Stone Steps at Historic Home on Kimberly Avenue

Completed stone steps


Kimberly Ave walkway

Completed walkway


Palm Leaf Mosaics

Palm Leaf Mosaics

We created six palm leaf mosaics for First Baptist Church of Asheville, and they now adorn the memorial garden’s brick walls. The mosaics feature sandstone palm leaves surrounded by bluestone, and each one has its own unique features. One of the leaf mosaics has a unique fractal pattern called a dendrite on some of its surfaces, and it tied in nicely with the mosaic. While closely resembling fossils, dendrites are naturally-occurring crystals called pseudofossils, and they are created by mineral intrusion.

1 of 6 Palm Leaf Mosaics made with natural stone

The natural stone mosaic of a palm leaf.

Accompanying metalwork was completed by Bob Gurkey. He did an excellent job maintaining the palm leaf motif, and collaborating with him was a pleasant experience.

Palm leaf metalwork by Bob Gurkey

Palm leaf metalwork by Bob Gurkey

First Baptist Church Medallion

Hammerhead doesn’t often work with brick, but we always enjoy a challenge. The scope of the large Memorial Garden project included two brick medallions designed to match the existing architecture of the church. A native to the Asheville area and an esteemed architect, Douglas D. Ellington modeled the design of the church after the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. First Baptist Church Asheville was completed in 1927 using red brick and pink marble and is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

First Baptist Church – Asheville

It was important to us to seek out the same type of marble used in the original construction in order to make it match the original motif of the church. We were pleased to locate the matching pink marble, called Etowah marble, from Northeast Georgia.

Closeup of the natural patterns found in etowah marble

Closeup of the natural patterns found in etowah marble


Using a similar red brick and the sought after Etowah marble, we were able to complete the inlay modeled on the architecture of the church. On the church facade, tile is used for the corners of the medallion. We used natural stone instead for weather durability and to connect the medallions to the stonework within the Memorial Garden.

Existing motif

Existing motif


Completed brick and etowah inlay

Completed brick and etowah inlay


On Making Labyrinths

Labyrinth paths loop back at returns called labryses.

Labyrinth paths loop back at returns called labryses.

The places where the labyrinth path returns, turning back on itself, are called labryses. This name reflects their shape, which some see as similar to an ceremonial ax. What’s interesting about cutting them is that those shapes –which we creatively called D’s– are all the same. Each of the eleven paths has its own radius, but they all meet the labrys stones in the same way. We only needed one template to cut all of the D shapes.

Stone Columns for an Automatic Driveway Gate

Stone driveway columns with automatic gate

Stone driveway columns with automatic gate

Hammerhead Stoneworks recently completed these stone columns to anchor an automatic driveway gate for an Asheville homeowner. The two columns are set on a single slab of concrete that extends across the driveway. Called a grade beam, this slab ensures that there’s no differential settling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen driveway columns settling away from each other, veering off in strange directions.
Driveway gate stone column

Driveway gate stone column

Each column has a steel armature inside it that is bolted to the slab/grade beam. Affectionately called ‘aliens’ for their many appendages, the armature is an awkward looking thing, until it is hidden by the stonework. The armature to the left is more involved as it has arms that extend to the outside of the column to support the gate as well as the gate operator. The armature allows us to center the gate on the column; in many cases a gate is set at the back of or behind the column as a convenience to the builder. We just thought it looked better in the center of the column. The stonework is structural, with only the steel armature- and some conduit- inside it. I think it gives a stronger, more integral look than a standy-up veneer. Almost all the material is sandstone from Tennessee, which is colorful and easy enough to square off for a clean edge.
Stone column for an automatic driveway gate

Stone column for an automatic driveway gate

Conduit runs through the center of each column for future lamps. Since it wasn’t in the homeowners plans as we built, we set a secondary cap on top, to cover the conduit and protect the opening from the weather. Should lamps be desired, the topmost capstones will be removed and the wiring can be installed with minimal fuss.

Black Mountain Patio

We just finished transforming this Black Mountain backyard from a ragged old deck with drainage issues into a dynamic living space with a fire table. Over the course of the last year we have been using larger and larger slabs of flagstone, but keeping our very tight tolerances for the joints. The results are more like a floor in terms of level and walking comfort than the typical concept of a patio, which is often as much filler as stone. All of the work here is drystone, except for the fire table, which has some refractory mortar in the fire brick for stability. I’ll post about that when I have some good images of it in use.

Getting started on a large patio.

Getting started on transforming this backyard in Black Mountain.

Big flagstones in a patio in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

A panorama from above the Black Mountain patio, from above

Black Mountain patio completed

We transformed this Black Mountain backyard with a patio and fire pit. Many of the flagstones are huge and all the work is laid dry.

A large patio is supported by a tightly fitted retaining wall.

This crib wall supports a large patio in Black Mountain.

Pebble mounted into a larger stone.

A pebble mounted into the face of a small boulder.

Weaverville Nature Park Stonework

Drystone wall and path in Weaverville.

We built this wall and sidewalk in Weaverville at the Downtown Nature Park.

Hammerhead Stoneworks recently completed this wall and sidewalk for the Town of Weaverville’s Downtown Nature Park. My boys and I take frequent walks there looking for bugs and snakes and tree frogs, so this was an exciting opportunity to make public work that I’ll get to enjoy.

The wall is a two sided, free-standing structure. Except for the seating cap, which is mortared in place, the wall is all drystone. It’s a very labor intensive approach to building a retaining wall, but I know well how kids will run and jump and scramble along the wall. We wanted to make the most durable and sturdiest product we could. I think it’s pretty too.

Drystone wall and path in Weaverville, North Carolina.

We built this wall and sidewalk in Weaverville at the Downtown Nature Park.

Drystone wall and path in Weaverville, North Carolina.

Drystone wall and path in Weaverville, North Carolina.

The pathway is also laid dry, over crushed stone. We used very large pieces, to give visual impact and to make the surface very, very stable. We used a wide variety of stone types, to give it different colors, patterns and textures. All the stone is sedimentary, which generally makes good walking surfaces.

Van accessible parking area with a drystone sidewalk.

The stone sidewalk fades down to the same level as the asphalt, creating an accessible parking area at the Downtown Nature Park in Weaverville, North Carolina.

The stone sidewalk fades down to the same level as the asphalt, creating an accessible parking area at one end of the new parking area. I like the abstract shape formed by the stone against the asphalt. That last section is a parking area for a van that can just pull up parallel to the stone sidewalk.

Seating wall

Stone sitting wall built in Weaverville by Hammerhead Stoneworks.

Stone River Step

Stone step with large landing

A river of bluestone runs through a step and landing.

This is the top step and landing that leads into a home in Fairview. The river is cut from Pennsylvania bluestone and runs through a field of Tennessee sandstone. We cut steps slabs in half lengthwise to create the edges to support the flagstone landings.
Steps and landings that lead into a Fariview home.

A bluestone river runs through a set of steps and landings.

Two New Fire Pit Panoramas

The ceremonial stone circle fire pit seen from above.

The ceremonial stone circle fire pit seen from above.

We finished this huge ceremonial fire pit just as winter faded into spring. These panoramas show the fire pit at rest and in full use, during the dedication ceremony, where every inch of bench seating was filled. It was very moving series of ceremonies and prayers.
Click images to enlarge.
A panorama of the fire pit dedication ceremony.

A panorama of the fire pit dedication ceremony.