I’ve been thinking about walls, and about stone.

Around here, stone walls from our early farming days are still here.

They line roadsides.


Freestanding stone wall, Panhandle Road, West Tisbury, MA

Sometimes the stones are “as found”.

Other times they’re cut.


Cut stone retaining wall, School Street, Woods Hole, MA

Before there was concrete, there was stone.

Stone for buildings.


Old candle factory, Woods Hole, MA. You don’t want to lose your business to fire, when your stock in trade can burn like a, uh…., a candle.

There is one basic rule of stonework.

“One stone over two, and two stones over one.”

Such a simple rule.

But many contemporary stone workers seem to have never heard of this rule.


School Street, Woods Hole, MA

Vertical joints like this doom a wall to failure.


Contemporary stonework, Hyannis, MA

Good stonework has rhythm that’s pleasing to the eye.

The next image is another view of the Hyannis walls.

See how the rhythm is off?

What a shame.


A valiant, backbreaking attempt that just doesn’t look right.

To build well with stone requires a mind that can deal with shapes in three dimensions.

Some people have it.

Some people don’t.

My friend and neighbor Sue went to Peru recently.

She took the next three photographs.

They give proper meaning to the word “stunning”.


Even after centuries, centuries that include earthquake and conquest, there are still joints in these walls where it is impossible to insert a piece of paper.




“How the heck did they do this?”


5 responses to “Walls

  1. Might be interested in Forest Forensics by Tom Wessells; he writes about stone walls as well. CHM

  2. I took a course in dry building stone walls, some years ago. I’m glad you called out those doomed-to-failure examples. When I come face-to-face with a stone wall, for any length of time,my eye immediately scans, searching out whether this is a good wall— or not. There seem to be a lot of stone layers (masons?) who do not seem to know the basics. . I appreciate a well-built wall. (“A thing of beauty is a joy forever. . . .”) .

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