The Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative will hold a public ceremony on Thursday, December 13th to celebrate repairs to the dry laid stone walls at the West Main Road entrance to Simmons Farm. Historically known as Coggeshall Farm, Simmons Farm is one of the island’s oldest farms still in operation. Over the years, its historic stone walls fell into disrepair and became overgrown by vegetation. The Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative has restored 211 linear feet of wall, which improves the farm’s historic landscape and the scenic quality of West Main Road.
The Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative (www.aquidneckstonewalls.org) is a collaboration between Preserve Rhode Island (PRI) and The Preservation Society of Newport County (PSNC) to protect and improve Aquidneck Island’s scenic character through historic stone wall repair. Stone walls are visible reminders of the island’s rural agricultural history and contribute to its sense of place, especially as they line well-traveled roads and frame views of historic farms and open space. Supported by funding from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the pilot phase of this effort will repair stone walls at Simmons Farm and the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, sites selected for their historic significance, visibility, and impact on the landscape.
PRI and PSNC hired Faraone Stonework & Masonry, a Rhode Island-based contractor certified in accordance with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA-GB). Faraone has trained with the Dry Stone Conservancy in Kentucky and The Stone Trust, a Vermont nonprofit that preserves and advances the art and craft of dry stone walling. As an extension of these efforts, the Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative represents an exciting way for PRI and PSNC to foster this important craft in Rhode Island.
Stone wall repair at the Norman Bird Sanctuary will begin in Spring 2019 at the intersection of Hanging Rock Road and Third Beach Road. Years of exposure to the elements and vegetation growth compounded by the theft of massive capstones have diminished the historic stone walls along this well-traveled intersection. The Initiative seeks to restore the historic and scenic quality of this corner because it is a gateway to Middletown’s treasured local beaches and Sachuest Point.
The Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative grew out of a survey of historic resources on Aquidneck Island conducted by PRI and PSNC in 2017. The survey identified historic buildings, including homes and barns, and historic features, such as stone walls, that contribute to the island’s vanishing historic and agricultural landscape.