Weekly Feature



2018-07-11 / Front Page

With masonry in his veins, resident creates stone peace sign

by ETHAN POWERS
Editor


Clarence resident Kenneth Johnson, a local stone mason, stands next to the peace sign he erected from stone. Clarence resident Kenneth Johnson, a local stone mason, stands next to the peace sign he erected from stone. Since its incorporation in the early 19th century, the Town of Clarence has held a special affinity for stone masonry.

To mark borders as well as to keep livestock on properties, the town’s stone walls are viewed today as both remnants of its agricultural heritage and a reminder of the pride held in its bucolic past.

Clarence resident Kenneth Johnson is one of many who aim to keep alive the town’s stone masonry appreciation. It began 15 years ago during a Main Street construction project outside his family’s home when he picked up a large stone left behind by the work. Johnson and his stepfather, Ed Schmidt, decided to create something new from the debris.

Together, the two took 10 to 12 tons of stone and completed a stone wall on the Main Street border of their property. For his efforts, the Clarence Chamber of Commerce awarded Johnson a Community Beautification Excellence Award.

Now, at 28 years old, Johnson is again using stone to inspire the community, this time through the erection of a peace sign.

The shape of the sign had been mowed into the grass on the Johnson lawn by Schmidt, large enough that it could actually be seen on Google Earth. Johnson decided to use his skillset to inscribe the sign more permanently.

“We were talking about it one night, and I mentioned making it out of rock,” he said. “It’s something that really fits into the area.”

From an early age, Johnson has been involved with stonework. It was his grandfather, he says, who first introduced him to the art of masonry, when he would work with him to build stone walls at Rushford Lake.

Johnson later landed a mentorship with Neil Crocker, a notable area stone mason, who helped Johnson to hone his craft and expand his knowledge of the trade.

“I was looking for a landscaping job, and I got one with him,” Johnson said. “I ended up helping to make the stone walls. He’s really the one who taught me how to use the hammers and the chisels.”

Of the many stone walls that Johnson has helped to build along Main Street, he notes the east stone wall on Kreher’s Farm as being among the most elaborate. Despite the daunting amount of time that Johnson spends working with stone, he still refers to it as a recreational activity that gives him peace of mind.

“I used to make a lot of these walls, across the whole stretch of Main Street pretty much,” he said. “It’s really just a hobby now, but in the future it could be a career path.”

Johnson has his sights set on a new project that he plans on creating at his father’s house in Alden — a door frame structure with an old stone cottage aesthetic that will serve as a landscape motif.

For Johnson, masonry allows for the creation of something from nothing, and it’s that conception that makes it so satisfying.

“I love the durability of stone, knowing that it will last,” he said. “When you’re building it, you can see it progress right in front of you.”

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