"Sitting Pretty - Hand-Cut Benches Decorate Lyons"
(Times-Call, 2000)

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When the autumn sun rose in Lyons Monday, it shone on something new to downtown. Namely, five new park benches, hand-crafted out of red sandstone from the Lyons area.

The benches, now permanent additions to Main Street sidewalks, are spaced on both sides of the street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. They are the latest of the Lyons Chamber of Commerce's street improvement projects, and business owners and residents alike love them.

"Everyone that has seen them has really raved," Chamber President Craig Malley told the town board Monday evening.

But why rave about park benches?

Well, not only were the benches made from local sandstone which complements the downtown atmosphere, but they were crafted - not made - by a local third-generation stone cutter, Paul Frysig.

And that crafting, called hand facing, is what sets the benches apart from the "everyday" sandstone park bench.

"Hand facing means that the stone is cut by hand with a chisel and hammer," Frysig said. "Cutting the stone that way gives it a rougher, more natural appearance than if it was cut with a saw.

But besides just looking nicer than saw-cut stone, the hand faced benches attest to Frysig's skill - one he considers a dying art.

Frysig's grandfather came to Lyons when sandstone mining was a big business there. "When he came here, he worked for the railroad as a switchman, but ended up working in the rock quarries."

He passed the skill he acquired on to his son, Don Frysig (also a Lyons resident), and he in turn passed it on to Paul. But that is something that is just not done anymore, Frysig said.

"Rather than teaching their children a trade, parents tell them to go to school," he said. But for Frysig, it was his skill as a stone cutter that put him through school. He now works as an engineer at Baseline Industries in Lyons and plys his "real" trade when he can.

"It's not that there's not money to be made (cutting stone)," Frysig said. "It's just that the government has placed restrictions on quarrying, and that has forced most of the independent little guys out of business."

For Frysig, the opportunity to make the downtown benches was something he just couldn't pass up. "Really the benches are worth about double what I charged," he said. "But this is the town I live in, that's what makes it worthwhile. When they bury me, my grandchildren will be able to say 'my grandpa made these.'"