How a piece of the Berlin Wall ended up in a backyard in Keswick Ridge
For more than 50 years, Earl Gilbey has been building a wall that contains rocks from around the world
Earl Gilbey has never been to Germany, but he keeps a piece of the Berlin Wall right behind his house in Keswick Ridge.
It's just one of thousands of pieces of brick, marble and loose stones from around the world that he has added to a large retaining wall on his property.
Gilbey has placed each of the historic rocks with his own two hands.
"It's just kind of a beautiful thing, really," he said from his home, about 27 kilometres northwest of Fredericton.
Gilbey started the project 50 years ago, steadily adding to a collection that features rocks from prominent places like the base camp of Mount Everest in Nepal, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and a small chip of marble from the Parthenon in Greece.
He also has rocks from the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C., the Matterhorn in the Alps, the Alaska Highway, Cape Spear in Newfoundland and a rock found near the Great Wall of China.
He has rocks from Mongolia, the North Pole, Russia, Ukraine.
He has cobblestones from Toronto and old Quebec. And many more rocks from across New Brunswick, including Grand Manan, Zealand and Barnettville, a neighbourhood south of Miramichi.
One part of the wall even contains hidden treasure, which is mostly spare change Gilbey uses when he runs out.
Gilbey has a journal that documents all the rocks and where they're from. But he can point out any rock along the wall without having to consult it.
Over the years, many have heard about the project and stopped by to marvel at it. Many have contributed to it, too.
"People on holidays stumbling around, looking things over, 'Oh there's a little piece of stuff, I must take that home to Earl,' " Gilbey said.
'Loose rocks laying around'
Gilbey said the collection hasn't caused any harm to heritage sites, as the tiny stones are mostly picked up off the ground.
For instance, the stone that came from the Great Wall of China was actually lying near the wall, not plucked from the wall itself. The keepsake is about the size of his thumbnail.
"Most of the rocks are from an area that isn't protected, " he said. "Any of these rocks, for the most part, are just loose rocks laying around."
The souvenirs have come from more than 100 friends, relatives, and customers from his art gallery and framing business.
One of them was David Urquhart of Fredericton.
Urquhart provided Gilbey with a stone found near the Urquhart Castle in Scotland.
Urquhart, who worked for the city, also gifted Gilbey with a piece of chimney from an old water pumping station at the end of Smythe Street after it was torn down.
The chimney included a piece that had the year "1883" embossed on it.
"There's quite a bit of history here and it's preserved ... it's all in one place," Urquhart said.
Gilbey's wall is about 55 metres long and just over a metre tall.
"I'll get it finished one of these days," Gilbey said. "I'm always full of crazy ideas."
Leaving a legacy
Gilbey has also collected stones from Fredericton-area buildings that have been demolished, including the old cotton mill in Marysville and the historic Risteen building, which was torn down two years ago on the corner of Smythe and Queen streets.
He also collects old tombstones that are about to be tossed from gravesites across the province.
When crews were excavating the grounds for the Fredericton Convention site, he collected a few stones there, too.
"I got a decorative piece of sandstone from out of there," he said.
Gilbey is hoping to finish his wall at some point. But as long as people keep giving him rocks, he'll keep building his wall.
"It's just something that I hope will stand for a good number of years," he said. "I'm leaving something behind that says I was here."