Three Basic Types of Walls
Boulders of red Jurrasic sandstone blotched with lichen, Connectut River Valley.
The majority of walls will fall easily into one of the three basic types: Abandoned Walls , Heritage Walls, and Recent & Rebuilt Walls .
This is a typology, not a taxnomy, meaning an attempt to sort into types based more on subjective criteria and localhistory than on anything objective like height, width, or ornamentation. For a more rigorous stone wall taxonomy based on field criteria, refer to Chater 9 - Classification in Exploring Stone Walls and to the Stone Wall Classification on this web site..
More affectionately known as "wild walls," this type is usually fairly old; farmstead walls walls that have since tumbled and become unkempt. Very few of these(especially the oddest-shaped constructions) may be pre-European in age. Regardless of their original origin, all have since become ruins.
Abandoned wall in UCONN Forest, Storrs, CT.
These are the woodland walls where, if a stone falls down, it's usually left where it fell. They are not taken care of. This makes them no more, and no less, wild than the creatures that live on, below, within, and near them. The fact that they are tumbled doesn't diminish their importance, because they have become part of local ecologic and watershed processes. For clues, look for walls that are:
- Surrounded by trees
- Tumbled and damaged, especially along the top.
- Occupy large land tracts.
- Covered by lichens and moss.
- Seldom made of quarried ston
More commony called "historic walls," these are important to local culture and history, the walls where, if a stone falls down, someone puts it back in place. Perhaps they surround an old church yard. Perhaps their local stories are well known. Perhaps they are monuments unto themselves. For clues, look for walls that are:
- Often moderately well built.
- Often contain quarried stone, or large capstones not composed of quarried rock.
- Are the foundations of former buildings, known to have existed in the past.
- Surround known estates or land tracts.
- There would be public opposition if the wall were scheduled for demolition.
- Grace old roads, especially Yankee-era turnpikes.
- Mentioned in original historic documents (such as the town pound).
Heritage wall around 18th early town cemetery, Tolland, CT.
RECENT AND REBUILT :
This broad category contains two basic subtypes. Most common are those walls where an old, tumbled-down wall on a formerly derelict property have been rebuilt, usually in the same place, usually by the landowner or a mason hired to do the job under their supervision. Almost just as common are generally shorter sections of "new" wall built on properties, usually with important stone.
Late 20th century wall rebuilt from residue of an old one, woodstock, CT.
Though these subtypes are often distinct, in just as many cases, they are not, because the stone from an old wall can easily be moved to another place for new construction. The basic idea here is that these walls, however beautiful they might be, are not "historic." More than half probably postdate 1970. For clues, look for walls that are:
- Ornaments to 20th and 21st century construction.
- Carefully laid
- Built of exotic (came from far away), rather than native, stone.
- Unsually well put together
- Can be documented as recent in age.
- Are in the process of being built or rebuilt.
- Are known to have been built by a living mason.
- Abandoned Walls:
- Leave them be. They are busy being habitat and stabilizing surface soils, including wetlands.
- Minimize the number of cuts made through them for driveways, roads, gates.
- When possible, align property lines of new subdivisions along these old lines.
- Do not use them as stripmines for other walls.
- Heritage Walls
- Identify and occurrences (especially old foundations). This is equivalent to finding an archaeological site.
- Inventory based on some naming protocols (Try the taxonomy in Exploring Stone Walls.)
- Develop an understanding regarding who is responsible for each item on the inventory (some are on historic site properties)
- Develop a plan for maintaining and protecting them that includes base-line photos and descriptions.
- Contact the Office of the State Archaeologist.
- Recent & Rebuilt
- For new walls,
- Recommend against the importation of stone stripmined from old walls.
- Recommend building them following local folk-art traditions
- Encourage use of dry stone techniques.
- Discourage odd, turreted, or otherwise unusual walls that might be seen as garish or ostentatious.
- For walls being rebuilt on site,
- Encourage rebuilding one section at a time to maintain drystone habitat