My great grandfather came from Winchester, New Hampshire to Brattleboro, Vermont, where I was born. So, I could say my roots are in the Granite State. But once the Snow family crossed the Connecticut River they never looked back. I’d been working stone around Windham County for ten years when, in the late 1980’s, Gordon asked me if I’d like to look at a job in Walpole. It must have been time for a Snow to recross the river. The next weekend he introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. Berg and they welcomed me to design a series of terraces and steps to facilitate pedestrian access from the car park to their home. The landscape between the two could more properly have been called a “ledgescape”. Trees had been cleared, stumps removed and all the soil stripped away. All that remained was the mountain top bedrock worn slick by the passing of time and glaciers. This wild, contorted slope of rock face was to be my work place for a good part of the next two years.
I began by making a model of the slope in cast plaster. The walls and steps were applied to the plaster in modeling clay. The design I came up with was a reflection of the architecture of the house; made of straight lines and right angles. This first design was straightaway rejected by my new clients but with such tact and respect for my efforts that my young artist’s ego escaped bruising. They encouraged me to reconfigure the design, using curves as the theme for the next try.
The second design received enthusiastic approval. Mrs. Berg asked, “When can you start?”, and that was as formal as our business relationship ever became. All work was by verbal agreement on a labor and materials basis. Over a nearly twenty year period I created numerous stone works on the property, most of which provided a setting for the gardens. During that time, I continued to make stone constructions for customers in Vermont but the Bergs remained my sole clients in New Hampshire. I knew from the start that there could be no better place to work in all the Granite State than on Rice Mountain.
This is the first of ten short essays on the design and stone work I did on Rice Mountain for the Berg family over an 18 year period beginning in the late 1980’s. The essays will be posted twice a week for the next five weeks. Happy New Year to all.