Sunday, April 26, 2015

Maddy was ten back then

The first time we saw the historic walls at Balsam Lake road Maddy was ten years old. (she's now 21) We took our bikes and cycled nearly a kilometre of road with beautiful old dry stone walls, sometimes on both sides of the road. I was thrilled back then to see that many dry stone walls so close to the road in Ontario and all in one area. I found out the walls were originally built by Canadian railroad tycoon George Laidlaw. The story goes that he imported a Scotsman by the name of Mr Scott to build several kilometres of walls to contain Mr Laidlaw's cattle on the ranch property he bought near Kirkfield back in mid 1800's. Much of what Mr Scott and his men built has disappeared but there are still some walls standing that are in great condition. I saw that sections obviously needed repair and inquired about fixing them. A year later I organized a wall restoration workshop there. 

I taught about 8 students including Dean McLellan (in the orange raincoat) and two of his co workers, the basics of dry stone walling that weekend and we fixed about 20 feet of wall over the two days.

Just last week I walked by that part of the wall we repaired back then and I took this photo. Twelve years later and it still all looks to be in good condition, just like the day we built it.

There was a second workshop the next year at Balsam Lake which Maddy and Dean helped with.

Last week I visited that section of wall too, and there is no indication that it has moved or will need repair again for another 150 years.

1 comment:

  1. This wall is a good example of the concept of "in kind" conservation. One of the first things you learn in post secondary conservation school is the importance of recording architecture as it exists, as it was initially constructed, and then repairing it using in kind philosophy. The original waller did not build with graduating courses or using snecked jumpers, but randomly bonded this stone as each was placed. Some might argue that it is not appropriate for the stone type or is not as strong as it could be because the throughs do not emerge at calculated increments. We do not have many walls like this in Canada so it is important to understand how they were originally built and repair in kind, as you have here, even if we do not understand why this method was originally chosen. It might be that it is the building method that links the wall to the old country, or a precise county, or a particular moment in time.. inarguably the most important reason to preserve its roots. Even if those roots are poison ivy!