The Washerwoman’s Genes

July 24, 2006

“The monumental labors of our forebears”

Filed under: Story — by WWG @ 8:42 pm

Stone walls die because of human action: Through legal stripping of stone out of abandoned rural walls and actual theft, people are dismantling old walls. Tragically, “money can be made by mining the heritage landscape and shipping it away.” And sometimes, walls are damaged by homeowners ignorantly landscaping their property, and many others are destroyed by vegetative overgrowth and other natural forces

The Stone Wall Initiative (SWI) is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the ancient stone walls of New England. The portion of New York east of the Hudson river is included in their territory, because topologically, it resembles New England. Of course, the western shore of the Hudson is as historically and archeologically significant, and contains many walls from the earliest days of colonial settlement. It is also an area that is currently less densely populated than some parts of New England, and therefore its walls may be less threatened, at least for the time being.

SWI wants to spread the word that stone walls are part of our present-day “cultural commons,” even though they originally served the purpose of dividing and delimiting private property. Walls should be preserved, SWI members believe, “for beauty’s sake,” but also “as a reminder of the monumental labors of our forebears.”

Quotations come from the Stone Wall Initiative website, which can be found at:


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