Stone Walls Grow Value

Not far from our home in the hills of southern Vermont, the streets of historic Newfane village are lined with white-clapboard houses, one of which had a retaining wall in the side yard that tumbled to ruin and was in need of replacement. Its age was undetermined but my guess was that it failed after only fifty years (short service for a dry stone construction). The cause of its demise was evident; insubstantial volume. The weight of the backfill was greater than the structure that had been put in place to retain it. The eventual, inevitable outcome, was a burst wall, proving once again that a single-skin wall does not a retainer make.

After pulling out the existing wall stone and excavating the site, I began building a five-foot tall, double-faced wall that would be stout enough to stand on its own before backfilling. To supplement the reclaimed stone from the old wall, twice as much additional stone was trucked in for the construction. The original, raised terrace area was reestablished with the addition of a wide staircase and seating edge along the perimeter. 

Most of the works done in the dry stone trade take place without fanfare. They serve basic needs by establishing boundaries, buttressing slopes and moderating ascents. They’re experienced as well-functioning while being hardly noticed. In fact, one sign of a successful new project is that those using it feel that it must have always been there. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be a sight to behold. Functional stonework can be arrestingly beautiful, often the more so with age. Stonework, done right, proves its worth day after day, year after year. The expense is left behind while the value continues forward.

For the dry stone waller, the values that linger after the job is done come out of the interactions that took place and the relationships that developed. It was a pleasure getting to know new clients, Mark and David. And as always, great to continue the bond of comradeship the crew at A.S. Clark and Sons and I have had for four decades.