Sermons in Stone
by Mary Seymour ’80 | photos by Scott Cook
Back in the day, President Hamilton Holt used a wooden contraption to drop stones into place during dedication ceremonies. During the decades following his retirement in 1949, the mechanism went missing—most likely jettisoned from a college storeroom as an oddball piece of junk.
When Thaddeus Seymour assumed the Rollins presidency in 1978, he became a great admirer of Holt and the Walk of Fame. One of his early ceremonial acts was to lay a stone from Holt’s Connecticut home next to the millstone that heads the Walk of Fame.
Seymour wanted to use Holt’s stone-laying mechanism for the ceremony, but it no longer existed. Fortunately, a witness to history stepped in to help. President Emeritus Hugh McKean ’30 ’72H, a Rollins student as well as a professor under Holt’s tenure, remembered the device clearly. He sketched it from memory; Rollins carpenters then took his pencil drawing and created a replica.
“It’s even more basic than the wheel,” says Seymour of the design. “The machine is just a cross bar and a rope. When you pull on the rope, the stone falls into place.”
This 1970s-era re-creation of Holt’s original mechanism is still in use today, a unique throwback to the Holt-ian Stone Age.
Vandalism or Historic Preservation?
Most Walk of Fame stones come from birthplaces, former homes, and gravesites of the honorees. Street cobbles, garden rocks, bricks, chimney stones—all have been fair game. But did the stone seekers always ask if they could take a chunk of history away?
College lapidarian Susan Curran assumes the vast majority of stones were acquired with permission. “Sometimes the person being honored provided the stone himself. Some were acquired during remodeling or renovation, such as the stone from Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, or demolition of a site. Some were picked up on the property with permission of a caretaker.”
Rollins President Emeritus Thaddeus Seymour ’82H suspects there may be some ill-gotten stones in the mix. “I’ve never seen a bill of sale in the Walk of Fame’s records,” he points out. However, he prefers not to think of the walkway as a monument to organized vandalism but rather as a reminder of a time when everyone felt entitled to a tangible piece of history. “I know of one college that boasts a piece of the stone where the Pilgrims landed. If every college chipped away such a souvenir, you’d have to use a ladder to go down to see Plymouth Rock!”
Want to Learn More About the Walk of Fame, Including the History of Each Stone?
Walk of Fame: A Rollins Legacy is available for $10 at the Rollins bookstore.