Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eric Sloane and Stone Walls (or Fences)

Eric Sloane and his dog, Spooky.  Black and white photographs from our archives
"The thing that might impress you most about New England is its stone 'walls.' When they were built  anything forming an enclosure was called a fence.  Whether it was made of roots or wood or stone, they were never referred to as walls; they are more properly called stone fences."

Eric Sloan wrote these words in "Eric Sloane's America", one of his many books.  These pictures of him (and his wife and dog) were taken at their house in the northwest corner of Connecticut in the late 1960s.




 

His Wife, Ruth




 





Set up with Coffee and Barely Audible Classical Music


 


He apologized for his approach, and explained that this wall had not been "properly" built and therefore he was cheating by using the mortar for the repair.

 

He is one of the few remaining men in the state who can build a proper dry wall.


 
Starchy White Congregational Churches and Stone Walls (Fences)

 
 


Robert Frost cited (but did not endorse) "good fences make good neighbors." The corollary may be also worthy of consideration. "Good neighbors make good fences."

22 comments:

nutrivore said...

Can't help but notice how impeccably that lady is dressed.

Those fences are one of the reasons why rural Scotland and Ireland are so breathtakingly charming.

Anonymous said...

The stone fence is the signature New England trademark, complimenting and setting off so many vistas there.

I am also an Eric Sloane fan and as a pen and ink artist in my youth, I still appreciate the many pen and ink drawings in his books.

Anonymous said...

So many people get Frost's poem wrong. He says there's no need for a wall in this poem.

Matt said...

During a long summer a few years ago in York, Maine I watched a single artisan build a dry stone wall (fence) from scratch. It must be at least 100 feet long. What an amazing process to observe. It is near the York Golf and Tennis Club, on the south side of the river diagonally across the street from the Elizabeth Perkins House. It's definitely worth a look the next time you are in York.

Greenfield said...

How I wish so many of the "new" people here could have seen your lovely post before they tore down the beautiful, authentic stone fences only to rebuild them in their mass-produced, suburban image of what they should be; a straight-edge inflicted on the landscape with a laser transit.

I hope in the Eastern part of the state people pause long enough to consider the genuine article.

Many thanks for this; a perfect reflection for Fall.

Bitsy said...

This post and the photographs in it (both black and white and color) brought a tear to my eye -- so beautiful! My husband has spent many an hour of his spare time building similar fences in and around our yard. I hope the next caretakers of our place appreciate them.

Heidi said...

What a beautiful, pastoral entry. It filled me with joy.We love Eric Sloane at our house as well...how fortunate your father was.
Heidi

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

You won me with this one. Near and dear in so many ways.

Michael Rowe said...

Your photographs by your father are so wonderfully sensitive and thoughtful. They make me wish I could meet the people, and walk in those places, at that time. It's almost as though he's writing with his camera.

John said...

This brings back some great memories. My father was a huge fan of Eric Sloane's books, and had several. I sometimes forget that I grew up in an environment that included those, the Foxfire books, and Mother Earth News. It may explain where I got some of my "Yankee" from, even though I was raised in Virginia. And the picture of his wife is indeed arresting. So unlike what we've become accustomed to.

Reggie Darling said...

What a marvelous post. I grew up on a steady diet of Eric Sloane books, many of which are in my library today (passed on by my mother) and which I consider to be treasures. I love the photographs your father took of him and his wife, and those that you took of the fellow rebuilding the stone wall. How delightful that Mr. and Mrs. Sloane were dressed so well. An inspiration, really. Reggie

Anonymous said...

Which Sloane book is shown open to pages 142-3?

Joyce N said...

What an elegant post! I do love your Father's pictures and can't wait for the book - hint, hint!

Stone fences are so beautiful and what a shame to destroy them. It is encouraging to see that they are still treasured.

Anonymous said...

Stone fences are so pretty. I also love those starchy white churches, old Grange Halls, etc., that you see in New England and on back roads around here. --Holly in PA

Summer said...

You might be interesetd in several books about stone fences/walls. They are:

-Stone By Stone by Robert M. Thorson

-Exploring Stone Walls: A Field Guide To New England's Stone Walls by Robert M. Thorson

-Sermons In Stone by Susan Allport

Summer said...

In addition, I think cookie cutter stone fences/walls that are constructed in suburbia today are a travesty.

WRJ said...

For those who care about maintaining original stone walls, know that a number of municipalities in New England have passed laws requiring their preservation and preventing their destruction. If development is threatening these "fences" in any of your readers' communities, similar legislation may be a good solution--and is probably relatively easy to accomplish on a local level.

Anonymous said...

A 170,000 unemployed people in Ct, and this gent has no one to mentor in his trade? We have a front row seat in the Decline and Fall of the American Empire...

Marie said...

I remember my late uncle building such a stone fence on his property. It was a labor of love that consumed many years. As a child in the Hudson Valley, I can remember wondering in the woods and coming across these wonderful reminder of times gone by.

Bethany Hissong said...

Mrs. Sloane bears a striking resemblance to Ingrid Bergman in that photo. I have always loved stone fences and around eastern Pennsylvania, especially in the Brandywine area, you will see them snake their way around the landscape. The are also in the Gettysburg area which is an eery reminder of men being there and the history of the place.

Anonymous said...

Oh how I love Maine and Mainers! Thanks for this. It made me so want to visit there again. I particularly appreciate the conclusion... good neighbors do, indeed, make good fences.

Anonymous said...

Dry-laid stonework is such an important part of New England's heritage--it's reassuring to see this history living alongside us in the modern world. A gentleman in Vermont, Rob Roy Macgregor, is also making fine stone walls the traditional way: http://www.rrmacstonework.com/index.html