If that title doesn’t get my article more clicks than one of Miner’s best, then I don’t know what else to try. This is an article about some indispensable features usually found in historic areas – stones and stonework. What historic district would be complete without them?
Stone along with wood and clay is one of the three earliest elements of architecture. Not only is stone cheap, plentiful, useful and durable, it’s also very beautiful. We’ve got many fine examples of stonework in our town and even some outstanding ones.
There are two basic types of stonework, ashlar which designates stones that have been hewn square or rectangular (or masonry composed of these stones) and rubble which is undressed, rough stones laid in a more random method or put another way, not laid in regular courses. There is one ancient rule for stonework that is generally followed even in rubble work and that is: One on two and two on one. That simple formula is what keeps most stonework standing.
Ashlar and rubble. We’ve many excellent examples of both. In this post and subsequent ones I intend to stone you with some of Maplewood’s best. Don’t worry. It’ll all be perfectly legal.
This is the earliest photo (approx. 1896) we have of our earliest known building – Woodside ca. 1848. Located at 2200 Bredell, Woodside was the longtime home of our pioneer family, the Rannells. As you might expect it contains some of our earliest known stonework. Courtesy of Greg Rannells.
Surprisingly Woodside’s foundation is not of rubble as one might expect in a rural farmhouse. It is ashlar. Note the nicely dressed stones.
This stone corbeling supports the western hearth on Woodside’s first floor.
There are fifteen stone homes like the one above in Maplewood. Ten on Big Bend and five on Walter Ave. 3220 Big Bend, built in 1910, has a front porch that was added later. That is why the porch is ashlar and the rest of the house is rubble. The rubble construction of the house to the right is easy to see. The stone steps and the front yard were lost to the widening of Big Bend in either the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. Courtesy of the Copeland family.
Many of our older homes have stone foundations. This is a nice ashlar example on this picturesque apartment building on Hazel. Stone is a great material for foundations because it won’t wick moisture as bricks would if they’re in contact with the earth.
This crenelated stone wall on Myrtle is just one part of what makes a walk in our older neighborhoods a visual pleasure. It is ashlar.
These beautiful curving stairs at Maple and Arbor once led to the Maplewood train depot which was called, curiously enough, the Maplewood Depot. The construction is rubble. It is interesting because the masons also included granite cobblestones along with the limestone. Having found cobblestones at an earlier depot site in Maplewood, my guess is that they used them because they had them around. These stairs are a wonderful detail of one of our oldest neighborhoods. Hopefully someone will keep them pointed up so they’re not gradually lost rock by rock. Since they are on the property of the railroad, one might want to just go ahead and do it rather than try and wade through the predictable bureaucracy that would weigh the merits of any official requests. It is worth noting that I’m not an official of the railroad or the City of Maplewood. So you’re on your own. Also I would hope that an effort would be made to preserve these steps should the railroad ever decide to replace the aging bridge (viaduct?) over Maple that is just to the left of these stairs.
Here is a photo of the Maplewood Depot for those that are unfamiliar with it. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.
I will close for now with this shot of Dan and Lisa Greenwood’s landmark home on the wedge between Hazel and Maple. Their magnolias in bloom are not to be missed. It won’t be long. I predict at least two more posts on the stonework of Maplewood. Stay tuned. As always I appreciate all of your questions, comments, emails and tips, etc. Unless stated otherwise, all photos are by Yours Truly.