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Notes from the Historic Preservation Working Group, March 2023

Participant at work during our Dutton Farm Historic Wall Preservation workshop from 2022. Our 2023 preservation workshop at Dutton Farm is opening for sign-ups now.

What’s uppermost in many preservationists’ minds?

Who is going to carry on once we’re gone?

Needed and noble professions potentially heading towards extinction

Much has been written lately about the disappearing Historic Preservation Trades. What were once much needed and noble professions are now professions that are potentially heading towards extinction. Younger generations coming up into the work force today are not exposed to these myriad trade opportunities and may not even be aware such trades exist. Our most cherished historic structures will continue to need rehabilitation if we want to preserve our heritage. How can we engage the next generation through public outreach? How do we communicate that going into one of the preservation trades can be a worthy and fulfilling career opportunity? How can we develop the next generation of preservationists? Here at the Stone Trust we are pursuing multiple avenues to advance the training of our next generation of dry stone wall artisans.

Engaging the next generation of dry stone wallers

Across the country local initiatives are taking place; in Tennessee a collaboration between Dan Brown Historic Sites Program Director of the Tennessee Historical Commission and Martin Beevers, founder and site champion of the Stone Trust Tennessee. Martin holds Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) Level 3 Waller Certification. He is also DSWA and Stone Trust-certified as an instructor, a Stone Trust Professional Member. and a board member.

Along with other preservation professionals in Tennessee Dan and Martin are discussing the possibility of developing a professional course on dry stone walling at Middle Tennessee State University. You can read about their work in Dan’s recent article in the Tennessee Conservationist, Saving and Preserving Dry Stack Stone Walls in Tennessee.

In Springfield, Vermont, at River Valley Technical School, the Stone Trust is advocating for the integration of dry stone walling into the curriculum of their Horticulture and Landscaping Program. Increasingly, landscape professionals seek to integrate dry stonework into their designs. Stonework creates structure, supports soil retention, helps manage water flow, and creates habitat for flora and fauna.

Bellows Falls Career Day 2023

Presenting at Career and Job Fairs at regional technical schools and at local high schools, such as the Bellows Falls High School in Rockingham Vermont also help educate students on the viability of dry stone walling as a profession or as part of a landscaping career.  In addition, most schools require students to complete hours of community service.  Giving students the opportunity to participate in dry stone wall rehab projects is yet another way to get them connected to a preservation trades career and enhances their interest in preservation of our most valuable historic structures.

Writing preservation into planning documents helps preserve and advance the art and craft of dry stone walling

There are also other multiple avenues to take to help continue to preserve our own craft, many of which can start at the local level.  In 2022 the Stone Trust was able to secure wording in the Historic Resources Section of the Rockingham Vermont Town Plan, which states the need to repair, restore and preserve its historic structures composed of dry stone wall construction; farmhouses, barns, bridge abutments and stone walls with matching historic methods and materials. Two goals of this objective were clearly defined:

  1. Engaging credentialed dry stone wallers. Employing local professional craftspeople will help continue to keep this craft alive and local artisans employed.
  2. Promote the benefits of preserving the historical integrity and structural soundness of these structures. Preserving these structures helps contribute to Vermont’s sense of scenic character and agricultural history.

I was surprised by the number of opportunities that presented themselves once I started engaging with my town, it’s Historic Commission and the local schools.  Representatives of all these institutions were extremely enthusiastic in collaborating on promoting the preservation trades.

Stone Trust members can find themselves with multiple opportunities to present, speak and show how dry stone walling can be an important sustainability strategy toward resource conservation and how it can promote connection to our heritage. To connect to any of these initiatives, please contact:

Karen Jarret, Chair, Historic Preservation Working Group

March 2023