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photoStonemason David Christensen has been plying his trade in the Methow Valley for more than 25 years. Photo by Solveig Torvik

Good Fit
David Christensen

You see his signature stonework everywhere in the Methow Valley.

The large fireplace that graces the lobby of Sun Mountain Lodge. Stonework outside the North Cascades Bank. The fireplace in the parlor of the Methow Valley Inn. The Thirtymile Fire memorial to fallen firefighters up the Chewuch River. And in countless high-end homes such as the Moccasin Lake Ranch.

Stonemason David Christensen, 72, of Winthrop figures he’s done at least 125 stone projects, big and small, inside and outside, in the quarter century he’s been working here.

“I like to create,” he says.

It wasn’t always the case. Christensen learned his trade as a teenager from his father, but unhappily so; he says he didn’t have a choice in the matter. It wasn’t until he returned from military service in Germany and was casting about for a career that he realized he’d been trained for a good one.

Happily, it turned out that he has the special skills required for the work. “You have to be able to visualize,” he says, to see the edges to make the pieces fit. As a child, he would do jigsaw puzzles with his mother. “I was very good at it,” he says, and plane geometry was his best class in high school. “I have the ability to see design.” And he pays close attention to the color of rock. “I’m so fussy about color that I refuse to wear sunglasses,” he adds; he says he doesn’t like the way the world looks through sunglasses.

Christensen was born in Seattle but moved to Brewster with his parents as a young child and graduated from high school there. He joined the army after graduation and was serving in Germany when the Berlin Wall was built.

He had been living in Brewster but moved to the Methow in 1985 because of the increasing number of stonework jobs he was being asked to do here. The one that brought him most attention was his interior and exterior work on the Ole Bardahl home on top of Studhorse Mountain in 1987, he says. That established his reputation as a fine craftsman. “It was a pleasure to be working on a project where appearances mattered,” he recalls.

“There aren’t very many people who know how to build a fireplace from the ground up,” says Christensen, who adds that while everybody likes a stone fireplace “few can afford it.”

photo of tall ledge rock chimney   photo of 30 mile memorial built from stone   photo of david christensen building river rock chimney
Photos courtesy of David Christensen. Click to see full photo.

Many of the projects he’s done have used river rock that he’s procured himself. But Christensen says it has become harder to gather local rock. “I have to be able to drive a truck to it,” he explains, but in many places where the rocks are that’s not allowed. He relies on commercial sources for other kinds of rock, such as Montana ledge stone.

There’s another requirement for the heavy lifting of stonemasonry: “You need endurance,” says Christensen. “I’m in good health but my body is kind of giving out,” he says. So 2013 “probably is my last year in business.”

Does he have an apprentice waiting to take over? No, it’s too late for that, he answers. “It takes years to train someone.” But he says that when he stops working, a stonemason from outside the valley likely will come in to meet the demand he has been filling for a quarter century.


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I enjoyed your article on my brother. He truly is an artist working with stone.

Ted Christensen
Leawood, Kansas