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drawing of a stone wall

Stonemason's Lament

Why was a stone wall painted white?

by Sally Mitani

From the December, 2017 issue

"It's like painting a Baltimore oriole gray," says David Menefee disgustedly, looking at the entrance to Woodland Mews along Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. In the mid-1980s he built the stone walls at the two entrances to the apartment-condo complex. The walls are still there, but a few years ago they were covered with white paint.

Menefee's line of work is strenuous and hard on the hands--he is now disabled by carpal tunnel syndrome and lives up north most of the year--but it also includes a lot of time staring at piles of rocks, deciding how to piece them together like a natural jigsaw puzzle. "You take the colors and shapes and try to make it pleasing to the eye," he says. "You don't just slap it up." The soft green, tan, and gray granite cobblestones he used were "probably part of a mountain, moved down here by a glacier. They're called glacial erratics," he says sadly. He remembers lovingly choosing them at Klumpp's quarry near the Jackson County line.

Picked up by Vesper Holdings in a bankruptcy auction in 2010, the housing complex is now managed by a Vesper subsidiary, Campus Life & Style. Reached by email in Texas, Campus Life marketing VP Jessica Nix explains the company's vision for the complex was "a sleek interior design for residents to enjoy. Upon touring our clubhouse, you will find that white is the dominant color on flooring, walls, cabinets, shelves, countertops, furniture, even including a white baby grand piano in our lounge! Bold, colorful accessories bring vibrant energy in these spaces where residents mingle and relax. Painting our monument sign white was a way for us to incorporate our new look inside and out."

They didn't paint all the stones though--they left bare the granite boulders Menefee left strewn around the base of the wall, an artistic effect that originally made the wall appear to be rising out of the earth. Now, incongruously, they appear to be giving birth to a slab of knobby Styrofoam.     (end of article)

[Originally published in December, 2017.]


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