Like Solving a Giant Jigsaw Puzzle
Fifty tons of fieldstone were used in the foundation of this beautiful lake house. Jim Starkey and his apprentice, James Turner, built the columns, arches, and walls during the winter of 2002. Jim learned the trade from his father, Russell O. Starkey, a lifelong mason. “This house was an unforgettable project,” Jim says. “James lugged every stone in a wheelbarrow down a steep hill to the site. We rethawed stones each morning using propane and kerosene heaters, and we covered the finished work with thermal blankets to keep it from freezing at night.
“The architect wanted this house to look like it had always been here. We achieved that by using natural fieldstone, which is common to the New England landscape.” Jim and James used stones from an old retaining wall that a landowner in Keene was going to bulldoze and bury (it is against New Hampshire state law to use fieldstones that mark boundary walls without the consent of both owners, or without the consent of town officials in the case of a roadside wall, but it’s acceptable to use interior walls, such as old foundations). Though the masons work with brick and quarried stone, too, it is fieldstone that presents the greatest challenge. “I don’t want to use a chisel or hammer,” Jim explains, “because I will lose the smooth face of the fieldstone.” Together, the men found just the right keystones for supporting each graceful arch. “This kind of masonry is like solving a giant jigsaw puzzle,” says Jim.
This past summer, Jim built a fieldstone fireplace across the lake, testament to the fact that the best advertising is a word-of-mouth recommendation.
For more information, contact James A. Starkey Masonry, LLC, Keene, NH. 603-352-2919.