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Such a special tour! Dry stone features Hidden in the Hills of Dummerston, Vermont

Dummerston, VT, Sunday, June 5

Friends of the Stone Trust gathered on a glorious Sunday afternoon for a tour of dry stone structures. We gathered at the Stone Trust Center for a quick overview of the architecture of a double-stack dry stone wall before heading off to see stonework built into the local landscape.    Stone Trust founder and Master Craftsman Dan Snow guided the tour, helping us understand the community context and cultural significance of each artifact. Of course, he also answered questions about how each structure was built.

First stop, the Dutton Farm walls

In 2010 the Stone Trust started restoring the Dutton Farm House field wall in partnership with the Landmark Trust USA. Since then, many workshop participants, instructors, and volunteers spent thousands of hours preparing and rebuilding 1000 lineal feet of wall. On Sunday, we could see how close to finished the restoration has come. Almost there! The most recent renovation effort took place in April, as wallers gathered for a historic restoration workshop to build a pair of curved freestanding walls, each ending in a square pillar. They worked with field stone from the historic wall, a mix of local ledge and glacial till, along with a mix of supplementary stone, including some granite.

Stop number two, a stone arch at Wilder Cemetery

Dan noted that people want their loved ones to be interred nearby, so over the years Wilder Cemetery, one of five town cemeteries, has expanded. Dan has constructed walls to define the newer areas, including a stone arch with the carved inscription from a Robert Frost poem at its base. (Inscription carved by Kelly O. Fulani.) A highlight of this stop, a healthy tree that has grown around two headstones whose upper-outer angles stick out from the trunk!

The third stop, Dummerston Center

We marveled at the Town Pound. Constructed in a series of workshops beginning in 2007, Dan guided the historic recreation of what had been an essential element of town infrastructure. In colonial times, straying farm animals might wreak havoc on community food supplies. Wandering livestock could decimate the crops needed for families to survive the winter. So a town pound was built to hold strays, who would be returned to their owners for a fee. The original pound constructed of logs collapsed on a child, tragically killing him.

According to Dan, the town still needed a pound, so Ben Alvord was paid $36 to build one from dry stone. Masons earned $1.50 a day in 1796. If he built it in twenty-four days, he made an average wage for a mason. Ben built 132 feet of six-foot-high wall, or 800 square feet of wall, or fifty cubic yards of wall. If he built it in twenty-four days, he was working at a rate of 5.5 linear feet a day. A Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) Level 1 test requires twenty-five square feet of wall to be stripped out and rebuilt in seven hours. At that rate, it would take thirty-two days to build 800 square feet.

From the Town Pound, we walked a short ways to the Firehouse Wall. Dan built this freestanding wall to DSWA test specifications in order for wallers to become certified. Without a doubt, this wall played an essential role in the establishment of the Stone Trust. Dan also pointed out a set of granite steps to the rear entrance of the Dummerston Congregational Church, repurposed from the original entrance where a ramp was needed.

Stop four: Elysian Hills Tree Farm

We enjoyed a short walk up a country road to wonder at the Christmas tree cairns constructed by Stone Trust founder and Master Craftsman Jared Flynn over the course of several years. Each of three distinctly designed trees sit above a ledge artistically bordered with stones in such a way as to appear as flowing water, a lakeside or a river. It is easy to see how Jared uses his walling to connect people to nature.

Finally, we returned to the Stone Trust’s Master Feature Park for refreshments and conversation about the incredible stonework we live among. If you would like to travel the route that we took, feel free! All sites are publicly accessible during daylight hours. Download the map here.

Many thanks to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center (BMAC) for sponsoring the tour, to Kirsten Marsti, BMAC Manager of Education and Community Programs for inviting Stone Trust participation in their Hidden in the Hills program, and to Mina Hinkle (BMAC) Intern and Events Coordinator for providing perfectly apt refreshments for a early summer evening.

Thanks, too, to Dan Snow and Elin Waagen for volunteering to lead the trip, planning the route, and making sure all our T’s were crossed and our I’s dotted.

And thanks to all the friends of the Stone Trust who came to experience the wonder of the stonework in our midst. So very nice to be together on such a beautiful day!

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And what you collectively said you learned:

The Stone Trust