Stone Wall Reconstruction on the Rock River

Before Irene - photo courtesy of Linda Walker

After Irene - photo courtesy of Linda Walker

Williamsville is a village in the town of Newfane, Vermont, just three miles, as the crow flies, from my home in Dummerston. While we had little, or no, damage in our town from flooding in September, Irene devastated the Williamsville area. The Rock River rose 18’ above its normal level. A 200’ length of 5’ high dry stone retaining wall, built in the 19th century, as part of an extensive water-powered industrial site, was swallowed up in the torrent. When flood waters receded, the wall was no more. Only the largest stones escaped being swept downstream.

Last week Mark B. and I went to work rescuing wall stone from the river’s edge and rebuilt the retaining wall. I chose and chained the pieces. Mark swung them into place with the excavator.

The same principles apply to constructing with large stone as those of a hand built wall. Each stone covers a joint in the course below, each stone is set with its length into the wall, an attempt is always made to match the heights of neighboring stones and top surfaces are made as level as possible. The finished work is rough in appearance but rugged, and hopefully long lasting. A flood as damaging as that of Irene is said to be a 200-year event.