84 DESIGNNEWENGLAND.COM MAY/JUNE 2014
As lines of demarcation, they began with purpose and have evolved to have style, too
written by bruce irving
In the beginning, good New England fences weren’t about making good neighbors. Far from it. They were three-dimen- sional declarations of a new way of dividing up the land. The Native Americans hadn’t needed them: The animals they hunted roamed freely, and their concept of ownership was more about the right to use a piece of land for a time — for
habitation or farming, usually seasonally, and sometimes only once.
When the English arrived, they brought with them the European concept of private and perpetual possession, with specific areas allotted
to individuals, and each plot subdivided into different uses.
In Changes in the Land, his classic 1983 work about how the colonists changed the ecology of New England, author William Cronon
devotes many pages to the practical and symbolic power of fences.
Before they could be built, however, Cronon writes: “Land was allocated to inhabitants using the same biblical philosophy that had justified taking it from the Indians in the first place: individuals should
robust yet refined, this fence by Gregory Lombardi Design adds a
contemporary note to historic Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its
wood and stone replace a dilapidated split-rail predecessor and echo the
materials of the recently restored 19th-century house it surrounds.
DEVON HEFFERON, GREGORY LOMBARDI DESIGN