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Archive for Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Fence restoration focus of artist’s work

March 27, 2002

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Karl Ramberg calls it the Great Wall of Lecompton.

It's a 750-foot-long, 3-foot-high limestone fence that was built in the days when Lecompton was a political center of the state.

But the wall has seen better days. That's why the Lawrence artist is rebuilding it stone by stone.

"You look at stonework like this, and there's a real peacefulness to it," Ramberg said. "To my eye, it really grabs you."

The fence is on 36 acres west of Lecompton owned by Judith McCrea, chairwoman of the Kansas University art department. She lives in a small studio on the land.

The fence is about 150 years old, and it likely was built to contain a herd of cattle. But in time, parts of the wall have collapsed.

"It would be a shame not to take the time and the care to make it look right," McCrea said.

McCrea hired Ramberg, who does stone landscaping and carving, for the project. The final tab will be between $5,000 and $6,000.

Ramberg and his assistant, Jason Klinknett, started rebuilding the wall about a month ago. They have about five days of work remaining.

Ramberg and Klinknett are restacking the approximately 300 tons of stone from the wall, completing about 50 feet each day.

Without mortar, stone placement is key. The stones on the outside of the wall must slant slightly toward the center of the wall, and the pieces must overlap for stability.

"A lot of people use the metaphor that it's like a puzzle," Ramberg said. "That isn't quite the right metaphor. It's more like a weaving."

Ramberg said it's rare for such a long fence to remain intact. He's often asked by farmers to remove similar fences from their property.

Earlier in his career, Ramberg would agree and use the stone for other projects. Now, he refuses preserving them is more important, he said.

"Honestly, I've taken more of them apart than I've put back together," he said. "And that's a sin."

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