(This is just one of many stereoscopic views of the Old Stone Mill that you can see in the NYPL Digital Gallery.)
No, this is no Nancy Drew series title. This is something that I learned about when while in Newport, Rhode Island, earlier this fall.
There’s a hand-built stone structure in this lovely town that, centuries after its construction, continues to inspire debates concerning its origin. Did the Norse, the Spanish, the Masons, or others build it? Is it the ruin of a mill, a church, an observatory? Whatever its history, it has come be known as the Old Stone Mill, and it stands in a park near the Redwood Library and Athenaeum. This venerable institution, perhaps after fielding thousands of questions on the history of the structure, has compiled an excellent guide to the debates and competing theories about its origin. NYPL also has materials that address the mystery of the Old Stone Mill. A search in the Library Catalog for the subject Old Stone Mill (Newport, R.I.) will bring the sources together quickly for you.
In addition to the mysterious Mill, I also learned another tidbit of hand-made architecture trivia that caught my fancy on this trip. The Redwood Library and Athenaeum is not, despite appearances, built of large stone blocks. It is instead covered in wood panels, each beveled, and then all painted over with stone-colored paint mixed with sand to create the stone texture. I was quite impressed both with this bit of 18th century diy treatment and with the institution as a whole. The Redwood Library is one of the country’s oldest libraries, and you can find out more about it at NYPL by searching for Redwood Library and Athenaeum as a subject. As you can imagine, I’m a sucker for library tourism and I was pleased to visit this library.
And here’s a stereoscopic view of this faux stone exterior, courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery: