Around New England

Irreplaceable Old Stone Walls in Peril in New England

Stone walls in New England originated with colonial farmers needing to move stones from plow fields and wanting to create a fence at the same time, but construction accelerated and improved in the early 1800s with the importing of merino sheep from Spain.

Wool from the prodigious sheep stocked the industrial-revolution mills of New England and gave subsistence farmers a valuable commodity — but fences were needed to hem them in. 

Mark Blazis offers a fascinating short history of stone walls, which dominate the landscape of rural and semi-rural towns around here.

He also notes that stone walls are in peril these days because some contractors find the materials irresistible, and some people are replacing masterfully built old stone walls with more pedestrian modern versions.

“While trees can grow back, the removed old stone walls are irreplaceable,” Blazis writes in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. “… The best masons could make the stone wall a stone poem.”

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