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Great Wall of Tamworth

Volunteers will be needed to restore memorial to President Cleveland

TAMWORTH SELECTMEN John Roberts (left) and Willie Farnum inspect a damaged portion of the Grover Cleveland Memorial Wall on Monday. Roberts says he wants to get volunteers to restore the wall. Daymond Steer. (click for larger version)
September 22, 2010
TAMWORTH — In some places the Grover Cleveland Memorial Stone Wall has gaps large enough to walk through. But the town's selectmen hope they can assemble a team of volunteers to build it back up.

The wall is a memorial to Tamworth's most famous summer resident, President Cleveland, who served as the 22nd and 24th President of the United States from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897. Cleveland's good friend, John Finley, also a summer resident, built the wall. Friend Finley, later in life, became the editor in chief of the New York Times.

The memorial stone wall was completed in 1910, two years after Cleveland's death. It runs one-third of a mile along Cleveland Hill Road from Brown's Hill Road to the former president's summer home.

During a site walk on Monday, Selectmen's chair John Roberts explained that he'd like to see the wall repaired before the town rebuilds Cleveland Hill Road, which has deep cracks and poor drainage. Storm water tends to run down the middle of the road. Although the road repair is a town project, the wall would be done with volunteer work.

"I'd like to see the wall rebuilt but I don't feel that the wall is the responsibility of the town," said Roberts. "We've had some people show interest in rebuilding the wall."

Town officials hope that 80 percent of the road repairs would be covered with a federal grant. Selectmen will ask voters for the matching funds or the entire cost in March of 2011. The entire project would cost almost $200,000.

"We wouldn't have to budget quite so much money if we get the grant," said Road Agent Bruce Robinson.

The volunteers' efforts would need to be coordinated with the highway department. That way, their work won't be torn up when construction workers install up to seven culverts in the road, said Robinson who will be marking the areas where the culverts will go.

The town could rebuild the wall in places where the culverts are going, said Roberts. In a few places, there are large gaps where boulders have come loose and have rolled down the hill. Many of the boulders were put in place with ox-powered pulley systems. Those stones have holes from the metal tongs that lifted them, Roberts said.

"All the material is still here, it's a matter of setting it back," said Roberts.

Cleveland Hill Road resident Karen McNiff said she's glad the selectmen are looking at fixing the wall, which she described as "beautiful." McNiff says she plans to help with the restoration effort. She added Tamworth residents have a history of coming together on big projects.

Selectman Bob Abraham says he likes the concept of the project, but stresses the town should come up with a detailed plan before getting too far.

"I don't want to wing it," said Abraham.

Cleveland, who was a Democrat, is the only U.S. President to serve two nonconsecutive terms. Among his achievements is signing the Interstate Commerce Act, the first federal law aimed at regulating the railroads, according to his biography on whitehouse.gov.

Roberts said anyone wishing to volunteer should contact the town at 323-7525.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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