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Stone Resurrected

We all have memories of special places from our youth:  beaches, fishing holes, horse ranches, libraries and many more old haunts as numerous as the people who carry those memories.  For me, places with stone features are what resonate. There was the granite wall where all the kids sat waiting for the bus, the stone fort which was a remnant from the King Phillip’s War, and the 180′ long segmented breakwater, (where a brother fell into some scary white capped water). However diverse and distant our memories of all these places may seem, they all have some things in common.  Each place was a destination and the journey to visit was filled with anticipation.  When we were in these places, the universe seemed all right. All these places seemed permanent.  We could imagine they had always existed and would long remain.

What makes stone spaces special to me is how powerfully they evoke age.  Stone by virtue of being stone suggests that it will last forever.  Manmade stone structures are our attempt to domesticate a material both unyielding and often grotesque, into something beautiful and permanent.  Stone structures evoke my European roots.  I imagine ancient churches, stone shelters, arched bridges and the many ruins and think, History happened here.

As our land use changes and our architectural styles evolve, many of our old farm walls will disappear.  In my exploration for more adaptive dry stone craft styles, I have been examining new building processes and the resulting forms.  One of my favorite new styles finds its form as a tall mass of counter intuitive stone placements, with high contrast between stone sizes and orientation of courses.  The resulting form, though newly minted, is one imbued with age: part ruin, part wall, domestic yet primitive. Pictured here is one such sculptural wall I recently installed here at the entrance to Avant Gardens. Notice the shelving, both recessed and extant: not just a playful gesture, but a suggestion that this wall may once have been part of an interior space.

One stone to another

Chris Tracey


  1. How true. You nailed it. So many memories came rushing up while reading your thoughtful words. And your wall– it indeed brings out the mystery of the ages, looks like it’s been there forever, and I want to be there with it. Actually, I just wanted to sit on those shelves, just sit there. Which I did, virtually– was very nice.
    Beautifully done and speaks strength and beauty. You have a gift.

  2. hey Chris-

    Nice work! I’d come down to see it myself but I’m still rehabbing the broken leg-another summer missed…

    But I’m starting to think a fall camping trip in Oct. to the Whites may be doable-give me a call when you get a chance. Hope all is well with you and the family!

    Another stone, er,,,

  3. When my eye passed over the picture of the wall, I felt a little uneasy. In reading the
    text “tall mass of counter intuitive stone placements” explained what I had felt. This
    posting came at just the right time for me.

    In 1975 we bought a rundown farm at the edge of town with intention of developing land for residential building adjacent to a subdivision in town which we were just bringing to completion. The farm was never a very productive one because it was too rough and irregular. The 150 acres now, in 2013, is reduced to 14 acres with our home, barn and other outbuildings having historical easement (1830s), 43 acres containing creek in a steep gorge, wetlands with fens, and a small virgin woods in a nature preserve with the Whitewater Land Trust and the remainder developed in residential housing and future residential housing. 1830s buildings are among the oldest in this area.

    The lowest level of the farmhouse is partly underground and partly exposed with a foundation wall 18 inches thick made out of ordivician stone complete with fossils.
    The spring house foundation is made of similar rocks which are still found in the base of the creek. A lower room is floored with brick tiles, made on the property. As we cleared off a steep slope behind the house we found two levels of walls put in
    to retain the soil. These are mostly made from roundish boulders deposited in our area by the last glacier. About 2-3 weeks ago I was working to remove weeds growing on the slope and “rediscovered” one of these old walls that I had worked on
    some time ago. I uncovered several boulders which we had not previously exposed and marveled at the ingenuity and hard work the settlers of this place had put in. We
    decided to tend and clean up things to expose our rocks and are working gradually at this project. With the remaining work of the settlers, the later less precise work of the people who added to the house, the rock walls rebuilt from fallen ones by our son 30 years ago, and some functional things we have done with recycled concrete, etc. we have that combination you describe:”part ruin, part wall, domestic yet primitive.”
    Thanks for your encouragement.


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