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Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls Paperback – March 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
"To know New England well, one must know its stone walls," writes the author of this authoritative paean to the structures he calls the "signatures of rural New England." There were once approximately 240,000 miles of stone walls in New England, and Thorson, a professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Connecticut, combines natural history and human history as he tells the story of the walls and how they were built. In his geo-archeological study, he begins by exploring how the stones, formed deep within the earth, were shaped and scattered by glaciation, buried under forest and soil buildup, brought to the surface after the New England pioneers cut down the trees and exposed the soil to frost heave, and tossed to the sides of their fields by early farmers clearing the land. He finds these tossed walls, which make up the majority of stone walls in New England, as aesthetically pleasing as the carefully constructed walls that came later. Every type of stone wall fascinates him. He extols their color, form and texture, the sounds they make, the shelter they provide for animals, their beauty as they disintegrate. As agriculture declined in the region, the walls were neglected, and today they are "almost as sad as they are simple," he says, for they are evidence of a lost Yankee culture. Now most of the walls have been abandoned, and their stones have become a cash crop to be sold and often carried far away from their original locations, which Thorson considers an "environmental tragedy." His book covers much technical material, but his enthusiasm for the subject brings it to life. Copious notes, extensive bibliography and an appendix with geologic time lines are included. Illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
As Thorson writes in his introduction, "Abandoned stone walls are the signatures of rural New England." The only national fencing census, made in 1871, estimated that there were approximately 240,000 miles of these "signatures." In telling their story, Thorson (geology and geophysics, Univ. of Connecticut) weaves together cultural and environmental histories with geography and natural science. With explanations written for a general rather than an academic readership, the author describes how the size, shape, and color of stones indicate how and where they were formed. These stones, as a natural resource of New England, shaped the culture of the region, beginning with the soil movement that yielded the stones from the ground. The resulting walls created microclimates and supported plant life while delineating property boundaries of the small family farms. Thorson traces the growth and decline of the farms and discusses the technological changes that resulted in the transition from an agricultural to an industrial nation. The author knows his subject thoroughly and communicates his enthusiasm. His intriguing book is best suited to public libraries and essential for libraries in New England.
Denise Hamilton, Franklin Pierce Coll. Lib., Rindge, NH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Dr. Thorson, a geology professor at the University of Connecticut, is recognized as New England's leading authority on the region's historic stone walls. In this book, he takes us far back in time to the earth's cooling, the continents' splitting apart and the glaciers' icy grip on the land to show how rocks and stones were formed. He brings us on a journey up through history to the present, showing why the time and tools were finally right in the early to mid-19th century to construct the tens of thousands of miles of stone walls found throughout New England.
He explains why these walls are such a special feature of New England's history and New Englanders' sense of ourselves as people who belong to a distinct and distinctive place. And he argues eloquently for preserving these walls against those who are selling and plundering them, literally carting off stone walls that took decades to build simply to lend faux gravitas and authenticity to new construction in areas that are "stone-poor," as he puts it. As he says, archeology is being sacrificed to become mere architecture and, in the process, what should be viewed as sacred pieces of our heritage are being lost forever.
Anyone interested in stone walls and in what makes New England the unique place it is should read this excellent book.