Sunday, June 04, 2006

Stone Fences Make...

...good neighbor-hoods.

My late husband and I moved to the Prescott area in the early 80s. A Chicago native, my husband was smitten by the mountains, the scenery -- and, of course, the ROCKS!

You have to understand that the rocks you find in the Chicago region are small, few and far between, left behind when the Ice Age glaciers receded. There are a couple of limestone outcroppings in the city, rare and important enough as landmarks to actually bear names, such as Stony Island. By far the exception for a city that is sitting on a couple hundred feet of clay.

So, when LH arrived in AZ, he couldn't resist picking up pretty rocks, interesting rocks, or everyday rocks each time we went on an excursion. I had lived in the state as a youngster in the 30s and again in the 40s, so I was a little more picky. Needless to say, backpacks, the car floor and the yard were quickly weighted down by collections. Rocks of all sorts.

And whenever we had a guest from Illinois, it was rocks, rocks & more rocks -- until it was time to pack for the airplane, when reality set in. We, of course, were saddled with a bunch more rocks.

But all by way of introduction.

Because it's obvious that earlier Prescott people were also into rocks, for a more practical reason -- damn fine building material, right at hand. When you walk or drive around the town and older summer resort areas, such as Mountain Club or Walker, keep your eyes open for the wonderful stone cottages, outbuildings and fences.

For a great display of stone fences of various stripes and materials, I recommend a walk along Park Avenue. Because this street was carved into a hilly area full of granites, most houses starting at Gurley Street, heading south, feature a rock fence or retaining wall. Styles vary and in some cases, shaped blocks of granite are used. (As for the granite, I presume it's of local origin, though I've never been able to locate a one-time granite quarry on any of the area USGS topo quads.)

A problem: not all of those "retaining walls" that bound a front yard a few feet above the sidewalk were built as such. So I learned one day from an elderly mason. He was repairing one of those stone walls, which had suffered a breach after the water load in the soil uphill proved too heavy.

He researched old records and pictures, which showed that, when built, many of the walls were actually fences (to keep the local kids out -- Lincoln School is nearby.) The yards behind some of the fences sloped up to the houses. It was only later that people decided that level -- or less sloped yards were the Thing to Do (and easier to mow.)

Of course, some of the walls front yards that are high -- because the site is higher than street level. These are likely to incorporate boulders which were already there.

But take a look for yourself. The variety is to great to include here.

1 comment:

Karen of Scottsdale said...

I absolutely love rocks and if I wasn't suspended above the ground in a motorized wheelchair I'd be picking up rocks everywhere I go! Thanks for dropping by my blog and introducing yourself. Your blog is quite interesting as I don't know much about Prescott. I will be back often! Welcome to the world of blogging.

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