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Sticks and Stones: The 30th Annual RI Statewide Historic Preservation Conference on Saturday, April 25 in Glocester

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The 30th Annual Rhode Island Statewide Preservation Conference will take place in Glocester and throughout the region on Saturday, April 25. Organized by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC), the conference considers the theme of “Sticks and Stones”: historic rural landscapes and the long-term impact of changes on the land. The sticks are the forests, cleared for agricultural fields long ago, regrown, and now managed as conservation land, park, and private woodlot. The stones remain where they were placed to mark burials, to provide sturdy building foundations, and to build walls that separated farm fields and delineated property boundaries.

Glocester is the hometown host for this year’s conference. Guided walks through Chepachet Village will explore themes of local history, architecture, industry, and planning. Tours further afield will visit working farms, mid-century modern homes nestled in the woods, and a forested landscape that was the site of several historic farmsteads. Additional tours will venture to Borders Farm and Foster Center, North Scituate, and Harrisville. Panel presentations will discuss the legacy of our public woodlands and demonstrate how LiDAR technology can penetrate forest cover to find evidence of historic landscapes and archaeological sites. Additional workshops will take on a range of topics like preservation grants and tax credits, local planning initiatives, Rhode Island’s Art Deco architecture, and a new statewide initiative to create heritage tourism apps for your mobile phone.

At St. Eugene’s Church in Chepachet, Robert M. Thorson, Professor of Geology at the University of Connecticut, will deliver the keynote speech titled “From Sticks to Stones and Back Again: The Underground Story of New England’s Stone Walls.” He will explain how clearing the “sticks” of the forest caused changes in the soil, which led inevitably to a litter of “stones” in the field. Managing this chronic problem led to the dense latticework of walls we find on the landscape today. Thorson will be preceded by greetings from Father T.J. Varghese, Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Town Council President Walter M.O. Steere III, Maia Farish of Roger Williams University, and RIHPHC Executive Director Edward F. Sanderson. Also, Senator Jack Reed will receive a special award from the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Inc.

The 30th Annual Statewide Preservation Conference is a great opportunity to learn about new initiatives, discuss issues, and network with experts in the field of historic preservation. The registration fee is $40, which includes morning coffee, lunch, and a closing reception at the Chepachet Union Church Fellowship Hall. The postmark deadline for registration by mail is April 11. To register or request more information, call 401-732-1009, or visit our website www.preservation.ri.gov/conference. Tickets are limited, and tours sell out first, so register today!

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