Being in the masonry field, our eyes are drawn to hardscape surfaces wherever we go. That is, brick, stone, tile or concrete building that purposely or decoratively “resides” within designed or natural landscapes.

It’s summertime and we’re intent on exploring once again Hildacy Farm Preserve. Fields abound with nature. Interspersed are also man-made structures — lots of mortared fieldstone. Farmers likely found these stones in fields and by streams.

Fieldstone wall at Hildacy

Colorful fieldstone wall at Hildacy (BuddingCo).

These facades remind me of a cairn image I recently saw in a book. A cairn is a “mound of stones piled up as a memorial or to mark a boundary or path” (Memidex online). At first I thought of our Cairn Terrier. (Sending her breed out in packs to forage in rock piles was Scotland’s solution for hunting small prey.) More important, this photograph highlighted the stonemason’s artistry of creating outdoor sculptures. “Whenever I had a free hour at the end of a day, I unwound by working on this satisfying expression of my appreciation of stone” (Reed, 2013, p. 211).

Stone Entrance at Hildacy

Arched stone entranceway at Hildacy (Buddingco).

Stone wall with ironwork gate at Hildacy

Mortared fieldstone wall with ironwork gate at Hildacy (BuddingCo).

Could we replicate similar formations? Which tools are used? Now might be time to rummage for finds around your local stone yard.

Hildacy in Media, PA encompasses 55 acres that were originally part of 300 acres of property that William Penn was granted in 1683. Thanks to the Natural Lands Trust these spaces are being conserved for our enjoyment. Like us, surely posterity will marvel at the notion that masonry lasts.


Reed, D. (2013). “The complete guide to stonescaping: Dry-stacking, mortaring, paving & gardenscaping.” New York, NY: Lark Crafts.

Stones have stories.


Side view of PA Bluestone standing up on pallets.

Irregular shapes of natural cleft Pennsylvania Bluestone standing up on pallets. (Credit: Buddingco)

These natural stones in our masonry yard (above) are known in general as flagstone or specifically as bluestone. Pennsylvania or PA Bluestone is quarried in northeastern Pennsylvania, the Catskills of New York state, and areas in northern New Jersey. The standups (because they are standing up on pallets) are irregularly-shaped pieces with natural cleft surfaces. That is, the tops are somewhat uneven rather than uniformly smooth, resulting from excavated rock that naturally breaks and splits along its seams. These splits create slabs of flat stone aka flags (or flagstone) used for paving.

Large slab of PA Bluestone.

Muliti-color PA Bluestone (Credit: BuddingCo)

As its name suggests, PA Bluestone comes in bluish hues. Other colors are gray, green, brown, tan, lilac, rust, and full color. Like snowflakes no one stone is like any other. According to the Pennsylvania Bluestone Association this material originated 360,000,000 years ago when seas covered the land leaving sand behind. Thus, the term sandstone–bluestone’s main ingredient. Over time residual water deposits of clay and minerals variegated the rock.

A large slab (left) exemplifies the variance in full color PA Bluestone. Zooming in microscopically (below) heightens the rippling effect of natural clef texture and exposes multiple tints from iron ore rust and more. Isn’t Mother Nature’s palette absolutely fabulous? Who knew that many paths we have walked and terraces we have trod upon consisted of such exquisiteness.

Close up of full color PA Bluestone.

Zooming in on details of full color PA Bluestone (Credit: BuddingCo).

Exploring further, I ran across a collection of historic photos from the Pennsylvania Geological Society Library. This image (below) taken in 1922 reveals a sandstone quarry in Pike County. See how the layers of bluestone built up over time? I wonder who else besides the boy (lower right) has seen this spectacular sight? Such are this week’s masonry musings.

Old picture of Sandstone Quarry located in Pike County Pennsylvania in 1922.

Sandstone Quarry, Pike County, Pennsylvania (Credit: Ralph W. Stone, 1922, Public Domain, PA Geological Survey)