Letter to Stone Wall Afficionado
Ruins of Barn in Shaker Village, Harvard, MA.
To Whom it May Concern:
New England’s historic stone walls are slowly disappearing from the landscape due to criminal theft, the insensitive use of private land, and what amounts to legalized strip-mining. As the walls disappear, towns are gradually losing their rural historic character, public archaeology is being converted into private architecture, and the diversity of the woodland habitat is being compromised.
For-profit market incentives drive the disappearance of stone walls. First, the cheapest source of stone usually comes from the most evocative woodland settings, where the archaeological settlement pattern is most intact. Second, weather-beaten stone from existing walls often commands a higher price than quarried stone. Third, stone sold beyond the borders of New England commands a much higher price than stone sold within the region, at least according to Yankee Magazine. In summary, private money can be made by mining the common heritage landscape and shipping it away.
Inspired by the recent bold example of Harwinton, CT, I urge you to read and circulate one or more of the articles enclosed with this letter, then take whatever action is appropriate for your town and(or) organization.
- Private Land: The first is about town-wide conservation efforts in Harwinton, Connecticut. The article, titled “Harwinton Hails Its Stone Walls” was written by Amy Mulvihill, published by the Litchfield County Times on Feburary 23, 2006, and is reproduced with their permission. It provides an example of bold, town-level leadership to protect this part of our cultural commons.
- Property Theft: The second article is about a stone dealer who raided old walls on private land to feed the supply side of the stone trade. The case, which involves jurisdictions in three states, was written as a Sunday feature titled “Hot Rocks: Stone Walls Disappear Across the Region: State Police Arrest Waterford Man,” by David Collins, published by the New London Day on October 31, 2004, and reproduced with their permission.
- Cultural Resources: The third describes my rationale for conservation of what amounts to the signature landform of rural New England. It was edited by Christine Woodside, published in the Winter 2005 issue of Connecticut Woodlands: The Magazine of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (Volume 69, Number 4, p. 13-15), and reproduced with their permission.
More information on stone wall management and conservation are available at the home page of the SWI, located on the internet at http://www.stonewall.uconn.edu. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions by phone (860-486-6198), email (email@example.com), by the letterhead address.
Thank you for your attention.
Robert M. Thorson