Stone Wall Expert to Talk, Take Questions, at Popular Library Event

Kevin Gardner has become one of New England's experts on stone walls and he brings his years of knowledge - from both studies and hands-on work - to the library on Wednesday night for a talk plus a question and answer session.

You can learn a lot of interesting things about stone walls in 90 minutes.

That’s the message from Kevin Gardner, who will be appearing at on Wednesday night to talk about the stone walls that are common in Hamilton, Wenham and all across New England.

Gardner is a New Hampshire native who has been building stone walls for nearly 40 years and has written a book titled “The Granite Kiss: Traditions and Techniques of Building New England Stone Walls.”

He’ll bring that experience to the library

Most interestingly, Gardner shows up to his talks with several five-gallon buckets full of rocks. By the end, he has built a stone wall on the table in front of him.

“It tends to fascinate them,” he said in a telephone interview this week from his Hopkinton, N.H. home. “It is different and people aren’t expecting it.”

And rarely is what Gardner talking about related to what he is doing to build the stone wall, he said. The stone wall building portion of the talk was added about eight years ago, he said, and its origins aren’t exactly clear.

“I honestly stumbled on it somehow,” Gardner said.

While he begins with a formal talk, he leaves plenty of time for questions and answers. And the questions he has heard run the gamut from audience members wanting to know more about how the walls were built before the introduction of machinery to quizzing him for help in repairing a damaged stone wall on their own property.

When asked, Gardner said he would “be delighted” if someone brought along a photo to accompany their question, but “usually a mere description is enough.”

There’s nothing in his talk specific to the two towns, but Gardner says “it is not something I calibrate for a specific area but members of the audience often bring it there and I am glad when they do.”

He does about a dozen library talks a year, and makes frequent appearances in Massachusetts. He’s done talks in Burlington, North Reading and Paxton recently and has one planned in Worcester next week. Word, he said, has gotten out among library programming directors that his talks usually draw quite a crowd.

In fact, Rebecca Shea, the librarian at Hamilton-Wenham Library who booked Gardner, said she is “so exceptionally excited” about his talk.

Garner first became interested in stone walls in 1972 when he first began building them while in his early 20s.

“I learned from my uncle, who was a farmer and a jack-of-all-trades,” he said.

Building stone walls is just one of Gardner’s many jobs, who is also a radio host, professional actor and teaches at an advanced studies summer program.


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