Never before have I seen an outdoor fireplace as in touch with its surroundings as this rugged, earthy creation at the Polly Hill Arboretum on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s right at home near an enormous shading tree. Following the tree’s lead, the fieldstone base grows up from its roots to form a trunk-like chimney. It then rambles off to the side to create a stone wall that shapes a generous outdoor room under the tree’s canopy.
Though lichen and vine-covered by nature, its construction attests to the human touch. Stacked rounded stones, horizontal granite lintels, and a careful arch reveal a craftsman’s skill. An iron oven, sweeping fireplace crane, and anchor-style andirons combine utility with appealing artistry. The recessed rectangular niches above the firebox contrast with the organic overall shape of the fireplace, further indicating the organizing touch of the craftsman. Perhaps these niches were once display spaces, or, more likely, they contained shelves for storage and maybe even cabinet-style doors.
This seeming ruin still “functions” I’m told. Clearly it does; it functions to inspire us with what nature and mankind can conspire to create.
by Katie Hutchison for the House Enthusiast