History of Stonewalls in New England with Jennifer Robinson

Stone walls are an iconic landscape feature of New England. They once served a functional purpose, but today they are threads through time, defining the region’s historical identity. Jennifer Robinson, Preservation Services Manager at Historic New England, explores the history of stone wall building in the region, develops a framework for identifying different types of stone walls, and considers preservation issues related to stone wall maintenance and protection. Click here for the 72-minute video posted by the Rockport Public Library on May 24, 2023 .

Prior to joining Historic New England, Jennifer (above, left) worked as a Research Fellow in Historic Landscapes at the Preservation Society of Newport County, a research consultant for the Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative (RI), and a museum/curatorial assistant at the Newport Historical Society. She began her presentation by talking about how stones arrived in New England through glacial action and how they now “float” to the surface in cultivated fields.

(Above) She then mentioned that Native people have been building ceremonial stone landscapes in New England for thousands of years before she spoke about how stones were used by colonists to build walls following practices in England that differed from Native three sisters gardens. (Above, right) She then described the various techniques used to move stones and to break up larger stones to use in building fences.

(Above) She then spoke about how stone fences were used to mark property lines in New England towns. She concluded by talking about how stone walls can be preserved and protected, sometimes by laws that fine people for damaging or removing them.