In 1852 George Barrett, a miller from Vermont, watched his frame house burn nearly to the ground. He vowed never to rebuild with a material that could burn. "With what material shall I build?" was Barrett's pressing concern. He considered rebuilding in stone but could find nothing suitable nearby. All of the bricklayers in the area were engaged at the time. And then Barrett recalled an article in the local newspaper that described a new material for the walls of buildings. O.S. Fowler of New York had built his own home using lime, sand, and gravel mixed together with water. The resulting substance, when dry and cured, was like stone. He called his building method gravel wall construction. Barrett decided that he would build his new house using this method. Barrett built the project without skilled help and recorded his struggles in a small book published in 1854. His book provided the quotations for this article.
BARRETT DETERMINES HIS MIX
"Being aware that the bond principle was wholly in lime, I made sure to keep on the safe side, and to every three barrow loads of gravel, of one and a half bushels each, I put in a half bushel of stone lime, filling in the bed in this proportion, having the lime slaked and made thin in a slush box,' and then run off into the gravel."
FORMING THE WALLS
Continuing his construction story, Barrett commented, "In laying up your walls, you will deposit the mortar in courses, around and across, all at the same time. To effect this you must have what we call curbing plank, to confine the mortar; these have to be placed on edge, and the inner edges must be the lines for the two sides of the wall. These plank have to be cut of lengths to correspond with the size of your building, and the several sections of its interior walls, and of a kind least liable to warp and twist in consequence of their contact with the mortar."