I've never been to North Dakota, but that may change in a few months. Judith Broeker, executive director of the Heritage Conservation Network, a Boulder, Colo., based non-profit organization, has been sending me information about this preservation effort for about six months.

Her persistence has had an effect on my moral conscience. I can see the value in trying to help save the beauty and diversity of masonry construction. It's about time I get off my duff and give back some sweat equity to the masonry industry.

Broeker's group works to secure help for preserving structures across the world. The group works closely with local organizers. She's been trying to form some connections with the masonry industry.

The project that has drawn my attention is the Hutmacher farm located in Killdeer. The farmstead, although not yet 100-years old, is one of the last (and possibly the best) examples of stone-slab construction in the state. This particular building style was brought to North Dakota by German-speaking immigrants from the Black Sea region of Russia and the Ukraine.

"The stone-slab building technique suited the family's need for economical shelter and was remarkably durable in the harsh, resource-poor environment," said Broeker. She told me these structures have attracted interest from scholars of vernacular building traditions, both in North America and as far away as Hong Kong, because of their excellent environmental adaptation to the Northern Great Plains.

The preservation work is all part of a detailed plan developed by Ed Crocker, an earthen architecture expert from Santa Fe, N.M. Crocker will be onsite for one day to work with participants, discuss materials conservation issues, and answer questions. Dale Bentley, of Preservation North Dakota, will lead the project.

This year's main focus will on rebuilding the roof, which involves timber framing and grass thatch covered with a clay mixture. But I'm going because I'm very interested in helping with the stone masonry work to stabilize the walls, which will then be tuckpointed with clay mortar.

The project will happen May 25-31. It only costs $490, which includes lodging at a rustic cabin at the Naard Creek Ranch (located 20 miles northwest of Killdeer), lunch (breakfast and evening meals not included), instruction, evening entertainment, fieldtrips, and insurance. Transportation to the workshop is not included and is the responsibility of the participant.

Broeker says there's only room for six or seven more workers. And if you can't join us, the project is accepting donations to help fund the restoration. For complete details and registration go to: http://www.heritageconservation.net/ws-hutmacher-2008.htm; or contact Heritage Conservation Network at 303 444-0128 or [email protected].

I'm hopeful this is the first of many projects on which we work with Broeker's group. We are tentatively planning a major project in Armenia for the summer of 2009. I think this is a great way to strengthen the industry's concern for preserving our legacy.

Rick Yelton
Editor in Chief
[email protected]