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Memorial Wall Publication

The Stone Carvers—Their Story

“When Harold Vogel designed the original wall, it was not intended for the large number of stars that appear today. It is a very sad thought, all those sacrifices.”

—Tim Johnston
Stone Carver


Harold Vogel_mini
Designer of the Memorial Wall—Harold Vogel.

Master Stone Carver Harold Vogel was born in Detroit, Michigan to an immigrant family from Ansbach, Germany. After the stock market crashed in 1929, the family returned to their home town in Bavaria and the family business—stone quarries and carving. During his formative years, he spent a great deal of time with his grandfather, a restoration sculptor, who taught Vogel how to use a hammer and chisel. In 1945, he began a stone carving apprenticeship in Nuremberg, and, after receiving his master craftsman certificate, came back to the United States and volunteered to serve in the US Army. Vogel eventually settled in Washington, DC and studied at the Corcoran School of Art (now The Corcoran College of Art + Design) and George Washington University. Vogel worked on the National Cathedral, the US Capitol building, and completed all the lettering on the marble walls of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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Tim Johnston_mini
Stone Carver Tim Johnston.
Stone Carver Tim Johnston learned his craft as an apprentice to Vogel. Johnston watched Vogel carve stars on the Memorial Wall for several years before he was allowed to carve a star with his own hand in 1989.

Johnston was born in Denver, Colorado. His father worked for the Department of Agriculture and moved to Northern Virginia in 1966 when Johnston was a young boy. At the age of 12, Johnston began working during the summers in the marble and tile industry. After graduating from high school, he worked full time for a tile company, but his interests shifted to stone setting, and finally, stone carving.

The Memorial Wall is a bittersweet project for Johnston. He is proud to help recognize CIA’s mission and the sacrifices made by Agency officers on behalf of the nation. Yet each time he must come to CIA, he does so with a heavy heart aware that an officer has fallen.

Johnston uses Vogel’s original 1974 template—which, when not in use, is locked in a safe—to ensure that every star is the same. Each one is first drawn by hand; the carving itself takes about one hour. Each star measures 2¼ inches tall by 2¼ inches wide and half an inch deep; the stars are six inches apart from each other, as are the rows. Johnston uses both a pneumatic air hammer and a chisel to carve out the traced pattern. After he finishes carving the star, he cleans the dust and sprays the star dark gray, which with age, acquires its own patina.

Johnston approaches his task with exceptional care. He describes the experience in his own words: “I only have one shot to carve the star—marble is unpredictable, you can never be sure how it will act—it’s a scary situation. But at the same time it’s a fantastic thing to do.”

For pictures of the stone carvers at work, click here.


Historical Document
Posted: Jul 27, 2010 07:23 AM
Last Updated: Jun 18, 2013 01:07 PM