The Chilmark Walls, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
|Stone Pillars and Gate on Old South Road, Chilmark|
Martha’s Vineyard lies off the southern coast of Cape Cod, which extends in an arc like a crooked finger projecting out in to the Atlantic Ocean. The current form of the island was created by the last ice age, when glaciers deposited thick layers of stone scraped and transported from various geologic formations in New England. The rest of the island seems to be made up primarily of sand.
I am developing a garden around a newly renovated home in an oak forest in the vicinity of Chilmark. Chilmark, on the southwest side of the island is known for its stone walls. Mile upon mile of these walls are inherent to the vernacular of the place, and efforts are being made to encourage their restoration.
|Old Granite Curb made in to a step in my project|
Construction methods vary, but the most common wall is a single thickness of stone, sometimes called ‘Lace Walls’ because the stone is stacked rather loosely with numerous gaps that you can see through. Some people theorize that the open gaps allowed strong winds to pass through the walls during heavy storms so that the walls wouldn't collapse. More likely it made the building of the walls faster and easier. Oxen were used to move the largest of the stones, and it is said that fishermen were sometimes employed when they weren’t at sea as a labor force.
|Restored wall on Old South Road in Chilmark|
|Reclining on a boulder we placed at my project|
I worked with a crew, with the mechanical advantage of an excavator and forklift rather than oxen for placing many of the field stones, boulders and granite curbs on the site. I will write about that project later, but I wanted to show the vernacular of the island that so heavily influenced the design of the garden project.
|The garden 4 years later. I've returned to refurbish it from its forlorn condition|
|The garden after a hard winter, 4 years later|
There are a number of skilled stone masons on the island today, including the artist Lew French (www.lewfrenchstone.com), whose artistry takes the work to an entirely different level. Martha’s Vineyard is a truly inspiring place to visit to see extraordinary stone work.
|Contempory Wall in West Tisbury by Lew French|
|Sassafras grove in Polly Hill Arboretum|
|Climbing Hydrangea on a wall in the Polly Hill Arboretum|
|Another wall at Polly Hill Arboretum|
|Path in Polly Hill Arboretum|
|Old Chilmark Farm House with new shingles around the front door|
|Picket Gate in Chilmark|