When the historic Westmoreland County Courthouse was being built 100 years ago, Teffi Raimondo of Greensburg, an Italian immigrant, was among the workers painstakingly cutting and erecting the Maine granite used in the majestic structure.
So it's only fitting that the company run by his grandsons -- Nicholas, Bob and Tom Raimondo -- is restoring the exterior of the Greensburg landmark this summer by replacing the crumbling mortar between the granite blocks.
"It's really nice that four generations of my family have worked on such a monument with such heritage," Bob Raimondo said. "It's a beautiful landmark and it's a true privilege. You put your love into it."
The iconic dome and Italian Renaissance design, in addition to the marble walls and staircases and the sun-lit rotunda inside, makes the building one of the most beautiful courthouses in the state. At the top of a hill on Main Street, the lighted dome can be seen for miles at night.
"My grandfather came to Greensburg in 1901, and they started construction on the courthouse in 1903," said Bob Raimondo, 47, of Hempfield. "His new construction company was involved in the stone carving and laying the granite blocks. It took several years to construct.
"My father Arthur was involved in some maintenance work to the courthouse in the 1950s, and my two brothers and I did some caulking and preservation work in the 1980s and 1990s as well."
Tyler Raimondo, 22, Bob's son, is supervising the five to eight workers on the Raimondo Construction Co. crew working on the courthouse.
Bob Raimondo said his father Arthur, 87, goes to the courthouse site a couple times a week to check on the work.
The family's company was awarded the $438,000 contract by county commissioners to replace the mortar in the original four-story section of the courthouse.
Greg McCloskey, the county's director of public works, said the project began at the end of March but has been plagued by rain. Last week, county commissioners extended the contract by one month to Aug. 31 to finish it.
While the gray granite blocks have withstood the test of time, the mortar between them has been crumbling for years, causing water leaks and damage to the judges' courtrooms and offices.
"We've been putting this project off for years," Commissioner Ted Kopas said. "But we had to do it. You get damage when you have water infiltration."
Mr. McCloskey said commissioners wanted to preserve the original look of the historic building.
"The original 'raised' mortar was rounded, and raised up, not like the indented mortar in between house bricks," he said. "And we made sure it would be the original gray color, too, so residents will see no difference."
The company is using the same mix as the original mortar, with the same grade of sand, and using some of the company's original tools.
It's an expensive job because it is so labor intensive. Workers had to drill out the crumbling quarter-inch of mortar between rows and rows of granite stone before replacing it.
"The four sides are done below the cornice," Bob Raimondo said. "We'll need a final crane to put up a new staircase by the dome. We're going to replace a steel staircase with an aluminum one that won't rust."
Mr. McCloskey said the contractor has been working around the judges' trial schedule to minimize noise.
County commissioners have been saving money for the project for nearly 10 years. The repointing work originally was scheduled to begin in 2006, but the bids came in so high that commissioners postponed the project.
The continuing leaks have taken their toll.
In 2008, chunks of the ceiling fell into a fourth-floor courtroom, requiring $34,000 to fix, including restoration to one of the original murals painted by a French artist.
Even courtrooms on the first floor have been damaged by water leaks and cracks in the plaster.
Mr. McCloskey said the fourth-floor courtrooms of Judges Al Bell, Chris Feliciani and Chris Scherer have sustained the worst water damage in recent years because of the decaying mortar.
In 2012, the county restored three female statues on the fourth-floor exterior of the courthouse as well.
As Mr. McCloskey said of the new mortar, "Hopefully, it will now last another 100 years."
Debra Duncan, freelance writer: email@example.com.