Stonehenge replica envisioned for Thompson’s Field in Harwich

20 02 2011
HARWICH — (USA) Tom Leach wears many hats: Top cop for the town’s waterways as harbormaster; expert on all things wild as natural resources director; and in a hobbyist role, an avid astronomer.

But now, he’s found a new calling to build something unlike anything else in town.  A monument of sorts, made out of huge pieces of granite. Leach wants to construct a version of the world famous Stonehenge, right in Harwich.

Stonehenge, near Amesbury, England, is a famous circle of standing stones erected around 2,500 B.C. World renown, this ancient site is both intriguing and mysterious, especially since no one has ever really figured out why it was originally built. Was it a burial ground? A marketplace? A temple for druid practices?

Many have concluded that its main purpose was as a calendar of sorts, to track the sun, planets and stars.

The idea of building a modern Stonehenge hit Leach as he sat in the back of a selectmen’s meeting a few years ago. The board was discussing whether to give the town of Wellfleet up to 90 large granite stones, some up to 9 feet tall and 3 feet wide, once used in a now-dismantled railroad bridge off Old Main Street.

The board knew the granite stones were valuable and decided against giving them away.

“Building our own Stonehenge would be absolutely unique,” Leach said. “Since we already have the stone and plenty of open space, we are part of the way there.”

“I think it would be a big draw for the town,” he added. “And I love the possibility of using Thompson’s Field as the setting.”

But the idea has not taken hold – yet. Leach knows the project requires a moderate sized group of volunteers and advocates. The layout and design must be drawn up and a proposal must be drafted for the conservation commission, which oversees the land on Thompson’s Field, to review.

Then comes the sheer logistics of moving the stones and positioning them at whatever site is chosen.

“This is such a mountain to climb and I can’t climb it by myself,” Leach admits. “You need dozens of volunteers and lots of heavy equipment.”

MichaelLach, executive director of Harwich Conservation Trust, agreed that the project would need “a real groundswell,” adding that, “It sounds interesting.”

Lach said that he needs to see a more refined plan before the trust takes a position.

He noted that a solar calendar on Wing Island in Brewster, built in the 1980s, has recently been maintained through a collaborative effort between the town and Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.

“That’s something to study as an example,” he added.

Highway department director Link Hooper noted that in 1999, the stones would have been buried as part of the landfill-capping project.

“I personally went and got the material and dug it up with heavy equipment before it was capped. It took a couple of days to put them off to the edge of the landfill,” said Hooper.

When asked about the idea of using the granite to build a small version of Stonehenge, Hooper didn’t want to take a position but said it was possible.

“The town could move it all – That’s no big problem. We’ve got front-end loaders and forks and flatbed trucks to do the job,” he said. “If the board of selectmen support it, I think this could move ahead.”

Selectman Ed McManus said that several of the stones have been used for markers across town.

“It’s an interesting idea,” he said of the Stonehenge concept. “But Thompson’s Field being conservation land, it would have to go in front of the conservation commission because they have the ultimate say on that land.”

For now, Leach is still hoping to pull together a bigger band of volunteers to help launch the project.

“I even bought a couple of books on Stonehenge to better understand the scope of the project,” he said. “It was done in stages over a thousand years, taking generations to complete the project.”

“We have the land, we have the material, we just need the manpower,” he said.

“We’re missing only that one element. With that, I know we can move ahead.”

Merlin @ Stonehenge (UK)
The Stonehenge website

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