Modern Anasazi Wall Builders of Jerome Part 3—Jane Moore

Most of this post is written by my ex-neighbor, Jane Moore. She lives two houses down from our previous home at the top of Deception Gulch. She wrote me a few emails commenting on the last two wall posts. She pointed out that she was one of the few women who built hand-stacked rock walls in Jerome. I always looked at her driveway and corral walls when I drove up to Richard’s house and assumed Chuck Runyon, her partner, built them.  I am very embarrassed to find I’m just another male chauvinist.

Here’s what Jane wrote and the photos that accompanied her emails.

“Gig Stearman [Jane’s neighbor down Gulch Road] is another absolutely fabulous wall builder, who uses rocks far larger than anyone else I know! And, perhaps you didn’t know that I’m the person who has done most of the dry stack walls on this property, with Chuck’s help with the bigger rocks.  Not too many people have ever seen them. I’m sending you a few pictures. I don’t know of too many other women who do dry stack walls!

“John Walsh is the person who I got started doing them with—he was in his eighties at the time, I worked for him doing yard work in the early eighties and was helping him rebuild his walls at Villa Contenta. (He was such a fun person to work for! I learned a lot about his life, as well.) Wall building in my yard is still something I am doing 30 years later—holding the hillside back, doing new walls and repairing old ones. Mine may not be as pretty as some of the other fabulous wall builders’ in town, but they last!

“And yes, I became a wall builder out of necessity myself. The day I signed the papers from Jill, the woman who sold me the house, was the day I was underneath the house cleaning some of her stuff out and the rock wall under there completely fell over! There were SO many old walls all over this property in various states of disrepair, that it seems it’s a never ending project! But never mind… it’s a job I enjoy, as long as my back holds out!

The walls in the corral barn are ones I did by myself when Chuck was in Nevada mining turquoise with Lee.  Photo by Jane Moore

The walls in the corral barn are ones I did by myself when Chuck was in Nevada mining turquoise with Lee. Photo by Jane Moor

“I love doing winding steps, and just funky, organic looking walls. I try to re-use good rocks, but end up having to go hunt for them a lot of times, and I really like to mix rocks—Tapeats sandstone, local limestone, flagstone, volcanic rock, etc.

Curving steps and wall. Photo by Jane Moore

Curving steps and wall, mostly done with stones from my brother’s flagstone quarry near Sedona. Photo by Jane Moore

More steps and wall. Note the lovely way Jane tied in the corner! Photo by Jane Moore.

More steps and wall. Note the lovely way Jane tied in the corner and kept the trees! Photo by Jane Moore.

“Here’s my latest project—a “pony” wall for a ramp that connects one corral to the other. It’s about halfway done. Another wall on the other side of ramp needs to be redone (the one along Richard’s driveway)

Jane's newest poy wall shows how one of these walls gets started at the bottom, with a good lean towards the hillside. Photo by Jane Moore

Jane’s newest  wall shows how one of these walls gets started, good foundation with rocks leaning in towards the hillside. Photo by Jane Moore

“When I first started building walls out of the odd shaped native rocks here, a strange feeling came over me that I had done this before (I don’t really question when that happens, I just accept!), and when the rocks just seem to fit perfectly together like a jigsaw puzzle, it goes so fast and is so much fun. With the native rocks, I like what I jokingly call “turd” rocks—long skinny ones that might only look like the size of a hand or two on the face of wall, but will go back in the wall a couple of feet. I spend a lot of time carefully fitting together other less useful rocks in as backfill, so the wall is actually quite thick, keeping in mind that backfill material and drainage is all important. I always joked that Chuck did the inside work/carpentry, and I did the outside work/”grunt” labor! I know I’ve done a hell of a lot of the pick and shovel work on this property!

“Next is a wall that’s taken 30 years to finish! Will finally be done this year, and i have been out working on it all day today.

Jane next to her latest wall. Really, really nice! Photo, courtesy Jane Moore.

Jane next to her latest wall.  ” The wall above me is the last funky old wall needing to be rebuilt from when I moved into the house. Photo, courtesy Jane Moore.

The wall to the right is mostly sandstone; wall to the left is mostly 'rubble rock,' much harder to build with because they are rough sided and sized. Photo by Jane Moore

The wall to the right is mostly sandstone; wall to the left is mostly ‘rubble rock,’ much harder to build with because the rocks are rough-sided and sized. Photo by Jane Moore

Jane is a potter and painter who has worked in Made In Jerome Pottery—www.madeinjerome.com/ since 1980.

Jane's paintings on pottery are famous and quite lovely.

Jane’s paintings on pottery are famous and quite lovely.

Like many artists that settled in Jerome in the seventies, Jane participated in town politics. Jane, Peggy Tovrea and Debbie Hall started the fireman’s auxiliary in 1976, after Phil Tovrea, one of Jerome’s renegade hippie newcomers was elected fire chief. Jane was head of Planning and Zoning in the 1980s. She was vice mayor from 1982–84, elected to the Town Council from 1998–2008 and was appointed mayor 2004–06. 

Modern Anasazi Wall Builders of Jerome, Part 2—Paul Nonnast

One of the comments from Part 1 of the wall builder stories was from Doyle Vines, a Jeroman that worked for the town of Jerome in many capacities in the eighties. Doyle wrote how much he loved the Holly Street wall.  It’s one of my favorites as well. The head of the crew that rebuilt that wall was Paul Nonnast, who is among my favorite of the modern hand-stacked build wall builders, along with Bob Hall, Richard Martin, Chuck Runyon, and my husband Walter.

The Holly Street Wall. The part built by Nonnast and the Town of Jerome is at the far   left. Photo by Bob Swanson/SwansonImages.com.

The Holly Street Wall. The part built by Nonnast and the Town of Jerome is at the far left. Photo by Bob Swanson/SwansonImages.com.

“I became a wall-builder of necessity,” Nonnast told me in 1990. “With the little money I came here with, I bought an old truck and 3 empty lots out the lonesome edge of town. My house was built with stones I gathered from out on Perkinsville Road, pick-axes, shovels, plumb bob, and a wheelbarrow.

Caption ‘The House on the Edge of Time’ was what Nonnast called that house. I published a story on that house ArtSpace Magazine in 1988. Photos by ML Lincoln

Caption ‘The House on the Edge of Time’ was what Nonnast called his house. I published a story on it in ArtSpace Magazine in 1988. Photos by ML Lincoln

I intercepted Jerome at the end of an era and have a perspective that I wouldn’t have if I turned up in town today. In 1975, many of us were considered bums. We struggled for a living. There were real outlaws living among us. We all tried to get along.  Everyone asked ‘how are you doing’ and cared about the answer. Today, the town bores me. All the talk is money.”

Built into the hillside,  Nonnast sometimes described his home as a ‘perforated cave’—a compact L-shaped building of three rooms: kitchen, bedroom, drafting/fabrication room. Adjacent are smaller rooms for storing tools and materials and a self-composting toilet.  The interior rooms open onto a stone terrace with round, cold pool and serve as an extension of the home’s internal spaces.   Inside and out, graceful sweeping curves, flat planes, numerous levels, angles, delicate patterning and tight joints identify Nonnast as a master stonemason.

Nonnast follows an ancient tradition of wall building among the ancient Anasazi (early Pueblo peoples of Utah and Arizona).

Some of the great walls at Chaco Canyon.

Some of the great walls at Chaco Canyon.

Paul is right at the top of my list of favorite artists, a visionary that was adept at sculpture, painting and architecture. He also was an industrial designer and designed the instrument case for Jerome Instrument Corporation’s mercury detector.

Paul Nonnast, paint on metal. Photo by ML Lincoln. I am so glad to own a few Nonnast paintings.

Paul Nonnast, paint on metal. Photo by ML Lincoln. I am so glad to own a few Nonnast paintings.

Only a few people in Jerome know that Nonnast received one of four honorable mentions in the prestigious Vietnam War Memorial Design Competition sponsored in Washington D.C. in l981. His memorial was conceived as a 22-foot cast bronze obelisk, counter-weighted and set into a fulcrum to allow motion. The obelisk was centered within a semi-circular polished granite surface textured with graceful spiral forms.

Obelisk maquette, balanced so it would sway in the wind. A smaller version was in Nonnast's home and I liked doing cloud hands with it as it swayed. Photo by ML Lincoln

Obelisk maquette, balanced so it would sway in the wind. A smaller version was in Nonnast’s home and I liked doing cloud hands with it as it swayed. Photo by ML Lincoln

His work was perfectly meticulous, even in what we might think of as ordinary objects. Once while staying at his house on a visit to Jerome, there was an old lunch box out on the dresser.  I had to look inside.  There were 12 dried maple leaves of beautiful colors arranged in an elegant pattern. That was the essence of Paul.

Paul Nonnast passed away in November 2005.

To view images of his art and rare collectibles, including the obelisk, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulnonnast/

Modern Anasazi Wall Builders of Jerome

Fifteen hundred retaining walls can be found from the historic Victorian-like homes at the top of Jerome, Arizona to the homes at the bottom of Deception Gulch—less than one aerial mile.  They are among the town’s most impressive and enduring architectural treasures.

Many walls are hand-stacked, one stone over two, much like the ancient walls of the Anasazi.

Ruin, Anasazi (ancient Southwest Pueblo people). If you hike extensively Utah and Arizona you will find these ruins everywhere.

Ruin, Anasazi (ancient Southwest Pueblo people). If you hike extensively in Utah and Arizona you will find these ancient wall ruins everywhere.

Most hand-stacked walls have no mortar between them. Properly built, the rocks “weep” and act as natural drains. They have an elasticity that enables them to shift and settle. In 1976, a small quake shook glasses in Paul and Jerry’s Saloon. The epicenter of a 3.2 earthquake in 1984 was located five miles outside of Jerome. It sounded like an underground train ambling through the town’s underbelly. Some rocks tumbled, but the walls held.

Here are photos  of some of my favorites hand-stacked walls.  There are many!  I’d like to hear about your favorites.

One of the first walls that drivers notice on their way up from Cottonwood is right on Highway 89A. It was built by Mexicans and Italian stonemasons in the 1930’s as a WPA project. The limestone rocks are quarried from the Martin formation just outside of town. The rocks have settled and withstood a few rumbles, which accounts for some of their curved lines. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

One of the first walls that drivers notice on their way up from Cottonwood is right on Highway 89A. It was built by Mexicans and Italian stonemasons in the 1930’s as a WPA project. The limestone rocks are quarried from the Martin formation just outside of town. The rocks have settled and withstood a few rumbles, which accounts for some of their curved lines. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Most rocks for Jerome’s retaining walls are quarried from within a seven-mile radius of town. The walls contain rocks from the same formations that are dominant in the Grand Canyon—1.8-billion-year-old schist, maroon Tapeats sandstone that holds millions of tiny shells, limestone of the Martin Formation and cherry-streaked Redwall sandstone, the ruby-colored Supai sandstone, and black lava basalt. They tell of the ancient seas that once covered the area and the tumult of volcanoes and earthquakes.

The rocks here are Tapeats sandstone, likely quarried from above the Gold King Mine. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The rocks here are Tapeats sandstone, likely quarried from above the Gold King Mine. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Some spectacular walls take a bit of a hike to get to.  This one that is close to the entrance to the old Hull Mine can be found by hiking up canyon in Deception Gulch.I used to access it from behind my old house by scrambling up to an old drainage ditch that is now a big rock tumble.

Very near the mining road that led to the entrance of the old Hull Mine, a quarter mile from town, is this spectacular inverted hand-stacked wall made up of small rocks from the canyon schists that are 1.8 billion years old, almost a third the age of the planet earth.

One of my favorite walls is this spectacular inverted hand-stacked wall made up of small rocks from the canyon schists that are 1.8 billion years old, almost a third the age of the planet earth.Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Some walls are collages that are made with just about anything that builders found laying around—discarded telephone poles, bedsprings, engine blocks, woodstove doors, corrugated tin, laundry buckets, refrigerators, and discarded tires that were filled with stone. Jerome’s builders recycled almost everything long before it was fashionable.

Wall of Tires and Laundry Buckets. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Wall of Tires and Laundry Buckets. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The last wall that my husband Walter built at our old house was in the back under the mesquite trees.

"I wanted to replicate the feeling of just standing in some of these canyons, and looking at the old Anasazi ruins, especially in Cedar Creek and Sycamore and watching the shifting play of shadows on the walls as the sun arcs, at one with that feeling, completely immersed in it, emotionally sunk in, needing nothing more. It’s a very psychotropic spot back there."Photo by Diane Rapaport

“I wanted to replicate the feeling of just standing in some of these canyons, and looking at the old Anasazi ruins, especially in Cedar Creek and Sycamore and watching the shifting play of shadows on the walls as the sun arcs, at one with that feeling, completely immersed in it, emotionally sunk in, needing nothing more. It’s a very psychotropic spot back there.” Photo by Diane Rapaport