Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Elverson, Pennsylvania:


                        When my Scottish friend Neil Rippingale invited me to join him and another friend  Dale Mitchell, to teach, my heart leapt for joy. As training program manager for the Dry Stone Conservancy, part of Neil's mission is to educate and train people in this venerable ancient craft. His vast knowledge, infectious enthusiasm, patience and mercurial wit all combine to make him a great teacher and ambassador for the craft.

                        Hopewell furnace is one example of an American 19th century rural "iron plantation". The compound includes a blast furnace, blacksmith shop, company store, working housing and several auxillary structures. The site's most bountiful time was during the 1820 -1840 period with a production boom during the American Civil War. 

                        The dry stone retaining wall where we taught is on a former "raceway". The "race" was a narrow water channel at the base of the wall. Over one mile in length from it's lake origin in the woods, the water flowed from the raceway into a millpond above the furnace. The water then flowed down a trough onto a 24' diameter water wheel which pumped the bellows - rapidly forcing air to accelerate the firing of the blast furnace. 

                         We first gave classroom orientations  on the basics of safety and stonework to the students. Our first 2 groups were school students aging from 13 - 17 years old. Some were initially hesitant, but their confidence grew as the days passed. The last group consisted of students in a 2 year degrred program in masonry at a vocational school in nearby Lancaster. They were conversant with all types of masonry systems including the wonderful world of historic lime mortars. Having had more hands-on experience, they dove right into working with the tools and stone.

                        At the end of our stay in Pennsylvania, Neil, Dale and myself gave birth to an idea over dinner. We established a dry stone scholarship fund. The scholarship provides the means for bringing aspiring masons to Kentucky for the dry stone workshop, walling competition and certification events. This annual festival is held every Autumn at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Shaker Village is a 3,000 acre living history museum and National Historic Landmark near Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

AuthorMichael Murphy

2010 Wyman Park Dell, Baltimore, Maryland

                 Wyman Park Dell is a 16 acre public park that is a landmark in Baltimore. The park is in a "dell" or deep valley with steep slopes and a large lawn area. The park was designed by the famed Olmsted Brothers, the same landscape architects responsible for New York City's Central Park.

                  We rebuilt the entire perimeter retaining wall of 1,300 in length. A small percentage of the original stone was recycled back into the new wall. The landscape architect specified a locally quarried quartzitic sandstone for the new build. The capitals are very massive; ranging from 5"-8" thick with some over 4' long.

                  Every day working in our little "dell" sanctuary within the city, we were reminded of what lives past the park. Amidst the birdsong and chattering of the squirrels were the sounds of vehicles, helicopters,jets and sirens. Many passers-by took an interest in the project and stopped to ask questions.

AuthorMichael Murphy

2009 Camp Ripley, Little Falls, Minnesota


                    Camp Ripley is home both to a Veteran's Cemetery and a National Guard Training Base. The original dry stone perimeter walls were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) in phases from 1934 -1942  using locally quarried granite. The C.C.C. was a public work relief program in the United States for unemployed married men from relief families.

                    The program was a major part of President Roosevelt's New Deal that provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by Federal, State and local governments. The C.C.C. provided employment for young men, to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States. The tens of thousands of acres of pine plantations here in Northern Michigan bear living witness to the C.C.C.'s nationwide reforestation campaign.

                    The 5,000' feet of dry stone wall we repaired and rebuilt varied in condition. Some needed only minor work, whereas other sections were completely taken apart and rebuilt. We fortified the wall according to the contract's specifications and consumed an additional 120 tons of the local granite. A significant amount of that material went inside of the wall. This unseen part inside the wall is known as "packing", "fill", "core-fill", or "hearting" - as it is also called in Scotland. It is literally the guts of the wall that hold it up and prevent it from collapsing inwardly.

Authorrobert bushway