Hitching posts are ready to be deployed on Albion Main Street

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The hitching posts were originally property markers. A blacksmith fashioned new pins and rings, and a stone mason put them in after drilling holes and pouring lead.

ALBION – Four hitching posts arrived in the Albion Department of Public Works garage today. It’s not the normal shipment for the DPW.

Tony Russo, a stone mason from Medina, has been working on these posts, which are to be set along Main Street in Albion.

One is planned for the Courthouse lawn, two others in the grass by the village parking lot next to the Presbyterian Church, and hopefully the other in the sidewalk by Krantz Furniture (the state Department of Transportation needs to sign off on that).

The posts are from more than a century ago. They were originally property markers. They didn’t have rings, a prominent feature of the old hitching posts.

Dusty DeCarlo moves the hitching posts from a truck to the DPW garage.

I heard that Fred Pilon, an Albion contractor with a stockpile of Medina sandstone relics, had these old posts. Several community members pitched our money together and bought the four from Pilon in a project facilitated by the Albion Main Street Alliance.

But we didn’t just want four posts without the rings. We would need new rings made. Then we wanted holes to be drilled into the posts. The rings (and the pins holding the rings) would then be set in lead.

We wanted this project to highlight all of the hitching posts and carriage steps in the Albion area. I think there are ore of these in the 14411 zip code than anywhere else. Having some on Main Street would raise awareness for the all of the others on the side streets, on Ridge Road and in the cemeteries.

The two by the village lot will include an interpretive panel that explains the original purpose behind the hitching posts and carriage steps, artifacts from the horse and buggy era. We’ll also have a carriage step that was donated.

George Borrelli works on creating a ring made out of steel.

George Borrelli, a blacksmith, created new rings at his shop in Carlton. He also made the pins that are set into the hole. To bend the shape the steel into a ring, Borrelli heated the material to 1,600 degrees.

We still needed a stone mason skilled in sandstone. There aren’t a lot of these people around these days. Tony Russo, owner of Romancing the Stone, is from a family of stone workers. His grandfather Joseph Russo was a curb setter and owner of Medina Stone. Tony’s father Joseph Russo owned P & J Construction.

Tony Russo loosens the straps that secured two of the four hitching posts he delivered today to the Albion Department of Public Works.

Russo experimented with sandstone blocks in drilling into the posts. He consulted with friends at Bernz-O-Matic about heating the pin and the lead in the hole. A micro-torch with its pencil-fine flame worked perfectly in heating the lead and the metal in the narrow hole.

Russo and the Albion folks working on this project wanted to try to recreate the look from more than a century ago. We didn’t want epoxy to hold in the ring. Russo said he is thrilled with how well the four turned out.

He marveled at the detail work in the old hitching posts, the recessed edges and textured finishes.

“The design alone had to be time-consuming,” he said.

This project not only returns historic artifacts to Main Street, but celebrates the quarrymen from more than a century ago. We didn’t want to see some of their work lost. We wanted it out in the public in prominent locations.

I’d like to see Holley and Medina add some of these to their historic downtowns. If anyone has an unwanted hitching post in their garage or one they want to give to a public project, send me an email at tom@orleanshub.com.