Take a stroll down Main Street in Hurley on a balmy day in July, and what you will witness is nothing short of a love affair. This is steadfast love, one that emanates through every facet of the Hudson Valley, solid and reliable. Each year, on Old Stone House Day, endearing tribute is paid to a partner that never talks back: the incredible stone that seems to go so perfectly with our region. Our history is inexorably bound to these homes, some of the oldest in the country.
In fact, one might say there is no older relationship in human history. Since the Stone Age, there have been those who took to the craft of stonemasonry, transforming rubble into not only function, but inspiring aesthetic masterpieces as well. And, over the last three centuries, the Mid-Hudson Valley has proven to be a wellspring of captivating stone with which those craftspeople can ply their trade. Sites like Woodstock’s Overlook Mountain once provided world-class bluestone that found itself not only adorning local backyards, but the sidewalks of early 19th-century Manhattan. The reliable, quartz-streaked Shawangunk Conglomerate stone that makes the Shawangunk Ridge a favorite for climbers can be also be found in a bevy of the various scintillating structures around the region.
Stonework is so singular a craft that even the business of providing masons the right material for their projects requires a practices eye. Since 2002, Sam Bradley’s Stone Resource has been a major provider of top-quality stone up and down the Hudson River. None of it quarried, all of Bradley’s stone is aboveground, weathered stone; about 60 percent comes directly from Stone Resources property in Amenia, though Bradley often travels as far as the Canadian border to select the ideal stone for a project. Over the course of the past decade, Bradley has developed not only his own special talent for understanding the medium, but a deep appreciation for the masons who create the work. “I can tell you who did the work from that particular craftsmanship,” says Bradley. “A lot of these folks are quality craftsman, but after awhile they are so good at what they do that they are absolutely artists. Great artists.”
The thrust of that art springs almost inexplicably from deep within that ancient harmony between man and stone, explains mason Keegan Thompson. Since opening his Stone Ridge-based Rock-N-Gardens
company in 2005, Thompson has increasingly discovered that the proper stone simply presents itself when needed. “It becomes almost an unconscious thing, and it just makes sense,” Thompson says with a smile. “It’s just something natural, something right.”