Article makes case for protection of
historic stone walls in North America


An article published in the current edition of Preservation Education & Research argues that preservation ordinances should be interpreted to include the protection of historically significant stone walls in North America, which are being deconstructed at an alarming rate to support commercial demand for stone building materials.

The article, penned by Louis G. Tassinary, professor of visualization at Texas A&M University, Dawn Jourdan, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Florida, and Sze Li, a planner for Palm Beach County, Fla. and 2006 Master of Urban Planning graduate from Texas A&M University, appears in the third volume of the academic journal, which is published by the National Council for Preservation Education.

The authors attribute the ongoing destruction of these historic artifacts to a lack of appreciation for stone walls reflected in national, state or local laws and ordinances, but suggest it is possible to make a case for their protection via the National Historic Preservation Act if the walls are defined as “structures.”

“Although there is not a body of consistent case law that would oblige a court to interpret the term ‘structure’ in preservation ordinances to include stone walls,” the authors said, “the case law does unequivocally suggest that the meaning of the term must be determined by taking a holistic view of the statutory landscape and all related materials.”

Given the inherent ability of stone walls to simultaneously represent the historical, cultural and environmental foundation of towns and cities, the authors point out the absurdity of excluding the walls from the class of objects protected by preservation ordinances.

“…tearing old walls down to make new ones is something like taking apart antique furniture simply to use the wood,” the article concludes, quoting Robert Thorson, a professor of geology at the University of Connecticut and author of several books about the stone walls, which he said are “the closest thing we have to classical ruins in New England.”

“In the absence of strong federal legislation to the contrary,” the article states, “stone walls will be protected only to the extent that state and local legislatures take an interest in these relics of the past or property owners themselves recognize the historic value of these structures.”


- Posted: Mar. 2, 2011 -

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Contact:   Phillip Rollfing, or 979.458.0442.


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