Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/August 1885/Building and Ornamental Stones of the United States
|BUILDING AND ORNAMENTAL STONES OF THE UNITED STATES.|
WHEN, early in his curatorship in the National Museum, Dr. George W. Hawes, one of the leading American lithologists, assumed charge of that branch of the tenth census relating to the quarrying industry of the United States, it is doubtful if any but himself fully realized the importance of the undertaking aside from its statistical bearings. Dr. Hawes was, however, not a man to be satisfied with figures alone, or one who considered the scope of a census to be merely the compilation of statistics, and in selecting his assistants he did so with especial reference to their qualifications in other lines of work as well. Thus we find upon his list the names of such geologists as Professors Shaler and Wolff, of Harvard; Hitchcock, of Dartmouth; Winchell, of Minneapolis; and others of equal note and ability. These assistants, or special agents as they were called, visited each quarry in person within their respective districts, and, together with collecting the necessary information relative to the amount, kind, and value of stone quarried, number of men employed, etc., made all possible observations in regard to the geological age of the stone, its disposition in the quarry, weathering qualities as displayed in those portions of the outcrop that had been exposed for ages to the action of atmospheric agencies, and, lastly, selected samples of the rock in the form of blocks of sufficient size to dress into four-inch cubes and forwarded them by mail to the National Museum, at Washington, for further examination. Here a corps of assistants was employed who selected samples for chemical and microscopic analysis, and left the block to be handsomely dressed into a four-inch cube and placed permanently upon exhibition, having mean-while made careful notes upon its working qualities. Small chips of each rock were ground into films so thin as to be perfectly transparent, and submitted to microscopic examination in order not only to determine what the rock was, but also to ascertain if it contained any mineral constituents liable to unfavorable change on exposure to the weather. Whenever necessary, chemical analysis was resorted to to further aid in the solution of the problems involved.
Unfortunately, Dr. Hawes did not live to carry out the plans he had so carefully laid down, hut the vast amount of material he had been instrumental in bringing together remains to-day in the National Museum, a lasting monument to the industry of the man, and probably the most systematic and complete collection of its kind in any museum in the world. As now being arranged in the museum, the collection comprises some four thousand specimens of building and ornamental stone from upward of fifteen hundred quarries in the United States, together with very many from foreign localities.
The importance of such a collection can not be overestimated. Here, within the space of an hour, one can see and examine every variety of stone now quarried, and ascertain its scientific name and chemical or mineral composition, together with the exact locality whence it was derived. That such a reference collection will prove of great advantage to the country at large is evident from the fact that New England granites have been used in nearly every city of importance from Maine to California, sometimes to the almost entire exclusion of equally good material close at hand, but of whose existence or valuable qualities interested parties were ignorant. As an illustration of this, it may be stated that many of the public and private buildings of Cincinnati, Ohio, are built of Eastern granite brought by rail and water a distance of over fifteen hundred miles, while within one tenth that distance lie rocks in every respect equally good for the purpose, and that could be furnished at far less cost! From the published report of the census as it now appears, there were quarried during the year ending May 31, 1880, 115,380,113 cubic feet of building and ornamental stones, valued in the rough at $18,365,055; this being the product of 1,525 quarries representing an invested capital of $25,414,497, and affording employment during the busy season to upward of 40,000 men. The kinds of stone quarried are principally granites, limestones (including dolomite), sandstone, and slates. In value of total product, regardless of kinds, the leading States rank as follows: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York, Maine, and Connecticut, each of these producing upward of $1,000,000 worth of material. Massachusetts and Maine produce the most granite; Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut the most sandstone; Vermont, Illinois, Ohio, and New York the most limestone, while Pennsylvania leads in the production of slate.
The larger portion of our granites are some shade of gray in color, though pink and red varieties are not uncommon. They vary in texture from very fine and homogeneous to coarsely porphyritic rocks in which the individual grains are an inch or more in length. The largest works at present in operation are at Vinalhaven, Maine. The quarries of the Bodwell Granite Company were first opened here in 1850, and the present annual product is some 217,000 cubic feet, valued at $112,000. The capabilities of these quarries may behest illustrated by stating that during a visit to the locality in the summer of 1883 the writer was shown the remains of a huge block of granite three hundred feet long, twenty feet wide, and from six to ten feet thick, that had been blown out from the quarry in a single piece and afterward broken up. The largest single block ever quarried and dressed was the General Wool Monument now in Troy, New York, which measured, when completed, sixty feet in height by five and a half feet square at the base, or only nine feet shorter than the Egyptian Obelisk now in Central Park, New York. The stone is light gray, often slightly pinkish in color, and corresponds closely with that from the now abandoned quarries on Dix Island, whence were taken the granite monoliths, thirty-one feet in height, for the Treasury Building at Washington. Second only to the quarries at Vinalhaven are those at Gloucester, Massachusetts—the quarries of the Cape Ann Granite Company. This rock is coarser in texture than that of Vinalhaven, and often of a slight greenish color. The new Masonic Temple at Philadelphia, and the Butler House, on Capitol Hill, Washington, are good illustrations of the adaptability of this stone for general building purposes.
Closely resembling the Cape Ann granite is that quarried at Quincy in the same State. Quarries were first regularly opened here in 1803, though it was from bowlders of this rock that was built in 1749-'54 King's Chapel, still standing on the corner of School and Tremont Streets, Boston. Quincy granite also was used in the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument, and it was for the transportation of this stone from the quarries to Charlestown that was built the first railway in America. The color of the stone is deep blue gray, and its fitness for interior decorative work is well shown in the granite stairways and polished pilasters of the new City Buildings in Philadelphia.
For columns, house-trimmings, and especially monumental work, the granite from Hallowell, Maine, is used most extensively. This rock is of fine and even grain, and very light gray, almost white in color. Its texture is such that it can be carved very readily, and it has been used in statuary work more than any other of our granites. The statues on the Pilgrim Monument, at Plymouth, Massachusetts, are of this stone. An Italian designer, who served his apprenticeship in Roman studios, is employed by this company, and many of the workmen at the quarries are said to be Italians who worked in marble in Italy, but have learned to cut granite since their arrival at Hallowell.
A granite, closely resembling that of Hallowell, is quarried very extensively near Concord, New Hampshire, and is used for similar purposes. Stones similar to these, but not at present in the market, are found near Frederickton, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia.
The red and pink granites now in the market are nearly all from Calais and Jonesboro, in the eastern part of Maine, though others are quarried at Mount Desert, in the same State; Lyme and Stony Creek, Connecticut; Westerly, Rhode Island; and Graniteville, Missouri. The Calais rock, which is at present the most important of these, is a light pink in color, of medium coarseness of texture, and acquires beautiful surface and polish. It is used extensively for door-posts and the bases of monuments in all our principal cities, competing favorably with the coarser red granite from Peterhead, Scotland, or that from St. George, New Brunswick.
Black granites are quarried in but two, and these widely separated, localities—St. George, Maine, and Penryn, California. Both stones are fine-grained, and nearly black on a polished surface, their dark colors being due to the abundance of black mica and hornblende that they contain. The greater part of the rock quarried and put upon the market under this name is, however, not granite at all, but diabase, a rock differing from granite in containing neither quartz, orthoclase, nor mica, but composed mainly of a triclinic feldspar and augite. The principal quarries of this rock are at Addison, Maine; Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts; York, Pennsylvania; and near Jersey City, New Jersey.
These rocks are all fine-grained and hard, and of a dark-gray color, that from Addison being nearly black when polished. The colors are rather too somber for general building purposes, but, when properly combined with brick or lighter stone, the effect is admirable. The Addison rock is being used to a considerable extent for cemetery and other monumental work, for which it seems peculiarly adapted, and together with the York diabase has been used in the stone-work of the Capitol-grounds at Washington. Diabase from the near vicinity has been used in the construction of the Stevens Institute building at Hoboken, New Jersey, and the court-house and St. Patrick's Cathedral at Jersey City. The fronts of many private and business houses in the last-named city are also of diabase, but the effect is not good, owing to the somber colors already alluded to.
From the fact that Maine and Massachusetts lead in the granite quarrying industry, it does not necessarily follow that these States produce a greater variety or better quality of material than some others in which the annual product is far less. The supremacy is due rather to natural quarrying and transportation facilities. In Maine especially many of the quarries are situated on hill-sides close by the water's edge, where no artificial drainage is required, and but little carting of the stone is necessary prior to loading it upon vessels, by means of which transportation can be had to all the leading cities of the country without transhipment, an item of no small importance with material so bulky and heavy as stone. Added to this is the fact that the great glacial ice-sheet, that once plowed its way across the whole of New England, has entirely removed the overlying mass of decayed rock and other waste material, and left the fresh granite close to the face and readily accessible. In regions farther to the south, beyond the limits of glacial action, the granite-beds are still covered with a mass of decomposed rock, often many feet in thickness, and which must be removed before quarrying can commence. It is probably largely due to these facts that the granites of these two States are enabled to compete so favorably in the Washington market with those from near Richmond, Virginia, a distance of only four or five hours' ride by rail.
Granite did not come into general use for building purposes in this country until a comparatively recent date, owing largely to the great difficulty in working it. According to Mr. J. E. Wolff, one of the earliest stone buildings in Boston was the "stone house of Deacon John Phillips," erected about 1650, and which continued to stand until 1864. It was built chiefly of bowlders from the immediate vicinity. In 1737 was built of bowlders, of Braintree (Quincy) granite, the old Hancock house, since torn down. The granite bowlders scattered over the commons had been very generally used in Quincy for steps, foundations, etc., for some years previous to this, until at last the inhabitants, becoming frightened lest this supply of valuable building material should become entirely exhausted, assembled in town-meeting and voted that "no person shall dig or carry off" any stone "on the said commons or undivided lands upon any account whatever without license from the committee, . . . upon penalty of the forfeiture of ten shillings for every and each cart-load so dug and carried away." Little did they then imagine that, close at their doors, this same stone existed in such quantities that over half a century of almost constant quarrying has failed to exhaust the supply. It was not, however, until the early part of the present century that granite began to be used at all extensively in and about Boston, when the material was introduced in considerable quantities by canal from Chelmsford, thirty miles distant. It was from the Chelmsford stone that was constructed in 1810 the Boston Court-House, in 1814 the New South Church, and in 1818-'19 the first stone block in the city, a portion of which is still standing on Brattle Street. In this year also a considerable quantity of the stone was shipped to Savannah, Georgia, for the construction of a church at that place. The greater part of this granite was, however, obtained from bowlders, and it was not until the opening of quarries at Quincy, in 1825, that the business assumed any great importance. From this time the use of granite for building material increased in a marked degree, and the history of stone-quarrying in Massachusetts may properly begin with this date.
Under the head of marbles are here included all those rocks consisting essentially of carbonate of lime (limestone), or carbonate of lime and magnesia (magnesian limestones and dolomites), which are susceptible of receiving a good polish, and are suitable for ornamental work. Vermont is at present the chief marble-producing State of the Union, excelling in this industry all the other States combined, having an invested capital of $3,886,000, and producing annually $1,340,050 worth of material. Of this the larger part is ordinary white, veined, or blue marble from Sutherland Falls, Rutland, East Dorset, and Pittsford. Dark gray, almost black fossiliferous marbles are, however, quarried at Isle La Motte, while red, mottled, and variegated varieties, used for tilings and wainscotings, are found at Mallett's Bay, in the northern part of Lake Champlain. The only statuary marble at present quarried in this country is found at West Rutland and Pittsford, in this State. The rock is of fine and even texture, and without specks or flaws, but differs from its Italian prototype in being of a dead-white color, lacking entirely the peculiar waxy luster so characteristic of the Italian marble. White and bluish marbles are also quarried at Lee, Massachusetts; Sing Sing, Tuckahoe, and Pleasantville, New York; in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania; and in Texas and Cockeysville, Maryland.
The Montgomery County quarries were first opened upward of one hundred years ago, and until as late as 1840 the stone continued to be the general favorite in Philadelphia for all manner of building, although not well suited for the finer grades of ornamental work. Girard College, the United States Custom-House, Mint, and Naval Asylum, are of this stone, while the seemingly endless rows of red-brick houses, with white-marble sills and caps, have come to be as characteristic of Philadelphia as are the brown-stone fronts of New York.
The colored marbles now in the market are brought principally from Tennessee. The ordinary red and white variegated varieties, so commonly seen in table-tops, mantels, soda-fountains, and panelings, are from Rogersville and Knoxville in this State. A fine grade of pink marble is also found at Cleaveland and Knoxville, while a fossil-bearing olive-green variety is brought from Calhoun. A peculiar brecciated stone, which I have not yet seen in the market, is also found here. It consists of yellowish, rounded, and angular fragments of varying sizes, imbedded in a fine, grayish ground-mass. So far as I have yet observed, this stone is entirely distinct from any produced elsewhere. Two fine varieties of gray fossiliferous marbles are produced at Chazy and Plattsburg, in Clinton County, New York, and are known commercially as "Lepanto" and "French gray." The first-named is gray with pink spots, while the last-named is more uniformly gray in color. With the exception of the Tennessee marbles, the Plattsburg stone is more extensively used for furniture and inside decorative work than any other now in the market. The only first-quality black marble now produced in this country is also from New York State quarries at Glens Falls, furnishing a fine grade of this material.
Other than in the States above mentioned no marbles of consequence are now produced east of the Rocky Mountains, though several States are known to contain material that might be thus utilized if put upon the market. California, however, produces two varieties worthy of especial notice. The one is a white, finely crystalline stone, traversed by a network of fine dark lines, in general appearance very much like the celebrated bardiglio marble from the Serravezza quarries, but that the ground-mass is lighter in color. The second variety is the beautiful stalagmite marble, or so-called onyx, from quarries at San Luis Obispo. This stone is pearly white in color, translucent, and traversed by fine, wavy, parallel lines, like the lines of growth upon the trunk of a tree. It takes a beautiful polish, and is quite extensively used for small stands and ornaments of various kinds. Excepting in the matter of color it is identical with the celebrated "Oriental alabaster" (wrongly so called), from Blad Recam, near the Ravine of Oned Abdallah, Egypt, this last being of a yellowish or amber hue. The San Luis Obispo rock is the only stalagmite marble of any commercial importance at present found in this country, though a beautiful variety, known as "Mexican onyx," is quarried at Tecali, State of Puebla, Mexico.
In the way of true conglomerate or breccia marble there is at present nothing quarried, though a beautiful variety occurs in inexhaustible quantities near Frederickton, Maryland, and in other parts of this State and Pennsylvania. The stone consists of rounded and angular fragments, of varying colors and all sizes up to several inches in diameter, of quartz and limestone imbedded in a fine gray ground-mass. This admixture of hard and soft material renders the dressing of the stone a matter of great difficulty, since the flinty pebbles break away from the softer ground-mass in the process of cutting. The large pillars of the old House of Representatives in the Capitol at Washington are of this stone.
The rock serpentine, though differing entirely from marble in chemical composition, is used for similar purposes, and may be mentioned here. The three principal sources of this rock, or of serpentine in combination with calcite, are Roxbury, Vermont; Moriah, Essex County, New York; and Dublin, Harford County, Maryland. The Vermont stone is deep green in color, and traversed by white veins of calcite. It takes a beautiful polish, and compares very favorably with the Italian verde antique or verde di Prato from quarries in Tuscany. The Moriah stone is similar in color, but granular in texture, and spotted, rather than veined. At present it is found in the market in the form of mantels, table-tops, monuments, etc. The Maryland stone is more uniformly green in color than either of those mentioned above, containing very little calcareous matter. It is said to occur in almost inexhaustible quantities and within easy reach of the Baltimore market, but for some unexplained reason little, if any, of it is now in use. A coarse serpentine used for general building purposes, but unsuited for any kind of ornamental work, is brought in considerable quantities from Chester County, Pennsylvania. The stone is dull-green in color, soft enough to work readily, and is capable of producing most excellent effects, particularly in rock-faced and rubble work. So far as the writer has observed, however, it has not yet been used to advantage, either alone or in combination with other stone, a majority of the buildings thus far constructed of it being not only failures from an architectural stand-point, but showing a remarkable lack of taste in color combination on the part of their designers. A dull-green building with light, yellowish-gray trimmings can scarcely be considered a success artistically, yet this is the style almost universally adopted. The stone has been used quite extensively in and about Philadelphia, and is the one employed in the construction of the buildings of the University of Pennsylvania and Academy of Natural Sciences in that city. It has also been used to some extent in the cities of New York and Washington, though I have not yet observed it elsewhere.
No marbles are at present quarried in this country similar to the white blue-veined Parmazo marble from the Miseglia quarries, like the red-veined from Levanto, like the yellow from Siena, the red "Griotte" from the French Pyrenees, or the black and gold (Portoro Venere) from the Spezia quarries. A stone somewhat resembling this last has been received at the museum from Helena, Montana, but the quarries are not worked, nor is the extent of the deposit known to the writer. A beautiful bright, flesh-pink marble occurs in abundance in Swain and Cherokee Counties, North Carolina, but is not now in the market, owing to lack of transportation facilities.
Of limestones and dolomites, aside from marbles, large quantities are quarried in the States of New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. These are mostly of a dull-grayish, uninteresting color, and their uses are chiefly local. The light-colored oolitic limestone of Bedford, Indiana, is, however, an exception to this rule. Not only is the color pleasing and its lasting qualities fair, but its fine even grain and softness render it admirably adapted for carved work. Several of the Southern and Western States have an abundance of limestone and sandstones suitable for general building purposes, but so far as observed few, if any of them, are of such quality as ever to attain anything more than a local market. Kentucky has limestones in abundance and of good quality. Kansas is pre-eminently a State of limestones. These are, however, for the most part soft and porous, of a dull color, and must be found lacking in lasting qualities in other than a very dry climate. A white, chalky limestone is quarried in Trego County, in this State, and is used in the manufacture of whiting. Otherwise than from the product of this quarry, all the other whiting manufactured in the United States is said to be prepared from imported English chalk. Texas furnishes cretaceous limestones of fine and compact texture from the vicinity of Austin. Some of these take a good polish, and might be used as marbles.
No lithographic limestones that can compare with the imported stone have as yet been found in this country. Silverville, Indiana; Glascow Junction, Kentucky; and Saverton, Missouri, each produce fine, even-grained stones of a drab color which have been put upon the market at various times as lithographic stone, but so far as is known to the writer the Missouri stone is the only one now used for this purpose.
The total amount of sandstone quarried in the United States during the census year was 24,776,930 cubic feet, valued at $4,780,391; the same being the product of 502 quarries representing an invested capital of $6,229,600.
Sandstone-quarrying in the United States doubtless began with the itinerant working of the extensive Triassic deposits of "brown-stone" in the vicinity of Portland, Connecticut. Where now are excavations upward of one hundred feet in depth, were then steep cliffs overhanging the river, and from these the inhabitants of Middletown and neighboring localities early began to carry away material for general building purposes as well as for monuments and gravestones. To such an extent had this system of free quarrying been carried, that as early as 1665 a resolve was passed similar in purpose to that relative to the granite bowlders on the Quincy Commons, to the effect "that no one shall dig or raise stone at the Rocks on the east side of the river" (now Portland) "but an inhabitant of the town, and that twelve pence shall be paid to the town for every ton of stone taken." Not long after this the quarries thus opened passed from the possession of the town into that of private parties, and what is now known as Brainard's quarry is said to have been operated since 1700. There are now three quarries situated in a line along the river's bank at this place, from which have been taken altogether some 4,300,000 cubic feet of stone, or enough to build a wall nearly two and a half feet high, and one foot thick, around the entire State!
Of the same geological age and general appearance as those of Connecticut, though varying slightly in color and texture, are the brown and red sandstones quarried in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. In all of these the cementing material that binds together the rounded and angular grains of which they are composed is largely iron oxide, which gives the color to the stone and yet leaves it soft enough to be worked at only a very moderate cost.
On account of their pleasing colors and easy working qualities these stones have been great favorites for general building purposes, as the monotonous rows of brown-stone fronts in New York city too well attest.
Of about equal importance with these brown Triassic stones are the light-colored subcarboniferous sandstones of Ohio and elsewhere. These are all fine-grained stones with but little cementing material, the individual grains of which they are composed being held together simply by the cohesion induced by the pressure to which they were subjected at the time of their consolidation. They therefore work very readily, especially when newly quarried, and have been used more extensively for carved work than any other of our sandstones. They are best represented in the market to-day by the so-called Euclid "blue-stones" and Berea "grits" of Ohio, the former being deep blue-gray in color, while the latter is very light. They are well known to the general public in the form of window stools and caps, door posts and steps, for which purpose they have been very extensively used in all our large cities.
Somewhat resembling in general appearance the Euclid blue-stones, but of greater geological age, are the dark, blue-gray compact "gray-wackes," or flag-stones, so extensively quarried in Ulster County, New York, and other parts of this State and Pennsylvania. These stones are of fine and even texture, and split readily from the quarries in slabs, usually but a few inches thick. They are therefore eminently suited for flagging, to which usage they are extensively applied, though they also used for steps and general trimming purposes. The rock quarried at Barryvale, in Sullivan County, is of a similar nature. It was from quarries at this last-named locality that was taken the monster flag-stone, twenty-five feet two inches long, by fifteen feet wide and eight inches thick, that now forms a portion of the sidewalk in front of the Vanderbilt residence on Fifth Avenue, New York. It should be stated, however, that the size of this block was limited only by the means of transportation, and much larger could be obtained at the quarries if desired.
Another very important group of sandstone, but of still greater geological antiquity, belonging to the Medina period of the Upper Silurian formations, is quarried extensively at Albion and Medina, near Rochester, New York. These stones are usually of a reddish color and contain a larger portion of siliceous cementing material than any of those yet mentioned; they are therefore much harder and much less pervious to moisture. The stones are used for all manner of building purposes, flagging, and street-paving. A somewhat similar stone, but of brighter color and Potsdam age, is quarried in the town of Potsdam, in St. Lawrence County, in the same State. This is the stone used in the construction of the Columbia College buildings in New York city.
Sandstones of this nature, i. e., with the larger proportion of siliceous cementing material, are among the most durable of all our building-stones; but their extreme hardness, and often poor colors are great drawbacks to their extensive use. In process of dressing such stone an exceedingly fine white dust arises and remains for a long time suspended in the air, to the great inconvenience of the workmen, who tell marvelous stories of its penetrating powers. They have been known to assert that, if an empty and hermetically sealed glass bottle be placed within the sheds where such stones are being cut, it will shortly be found with a fine white deposit of the dust upon the bottom and on the inside, and no argument can convince them that it came there otherwise than through the pores of the seemingly impervious glass!
The quarrying of slate for roofing purposes is an industry of comparatively recent origin in the United States, few of the quarries having been operated for a longer period than twenty or thirty years. The earliest opened and systematically worked are believed to have been those at West Bangor, Pennsylvania, which date back to 1835. The abundance of slate tombstones in many of our old churchyards, however, would seem to prove that for other purposes than roofing these stones have been quarried from a much earlier period. It is stated, moreover, that as early as 1721 a cargo of twenty tons of split slate was brought into Boston from Hangman's Island in Braintree Bay, which may have been used wholly or in part for roofing purposes; but the greater part of the material for this purpose was imported directly from Wales. It is interesting to note, in this connection, that, daring the business depression of 1876-'80, almost the entire product of the American quarries was exported to England, where it sold for even less than the Welsh slates, though necessarily at very small profits. The return of more prosperous times, however, created a local demand, and the export trade has been largely decreased accordingly, though considerable quantities are still sent out to the West Indies, South America, England, Germany, and even New Zealand and Australia.
At present not far from $3,328,150 are invested in the slate-quarries of the United States, and the value of the annual product is some $1,529,985.
Pennsylvania is the leading State in this industry, her quarries being located in Lehigh, Northampton, and York Counties, in the eastern part of the State. These slates are all blue-black in color; as are also those from Maine, Massachusetts, and Maryland. The Vermont slates are of a greenish or purple color, while those of New York are mostly purple and red, the latter color being found in extensive deposits near Granville, in Washington County.
Besides for roofing purposes, slates are used for billiard-tables, mantels, floor-tiles, flagging, and in the manufacture of school-slates. For the last-named purpose a soft, even-grained stone is required, and almost the entire supply is at present brought from Pennsylvania and Vermont.
Of late years, the business of marbleizing slates for mantels and fireplaces has become an important industry. All kinds of stones can be imitated by this process, but that most commonly seen is the green verd-antique marble and the variegated marbles of Tennessee. Like many counterfeits, however, the work is too perfect in execution, and need deceive none but the most inexperienced.
Concerning the future of the building stone industry little that is definite can be said. As the population increases and becomes more fixed in its abode, there naturally arises a demand for a more durable building material than wood, which is still largely used in the country towns and smaller cities. As wealth accumulates, too, better and more substantial buildings are erected, which are often profusely embellished with the finer grades of ornamental stones. The demand, then, is sure to increase. In regard to the amount of the supply there can be question; everything would seem to depend on the quality, variety, and cost of working of yet-to-be-discovered material. Are we to continue to import as now the finer grades of our ornamental stones, or will our own quarries, yet perhaps to be opened, produce enough and more than enough for our own use? I am inclined to think the latter.
In many of the Eastern and earliest to be settled States very little is yet known regarding their final resources. In Maine, for instance, fully one half of the State is as yet an unknown land. Its present quarries are nearly all immediately upon the coast. What are the resources of its immense interior can not with certainty be foretold. In the Southern and Western States and Territories, this condition of affairs is naturally greatly magnified. The Virginias, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, all contain excellent material, none of which is now in our principal markets. Michigan can furnish brown sandstones in great abundance fully equal to any now quarried in the more Eastern States, and other sandstones of a beautiful mellow tint are known to occur in Western Arizona. The Rocky Mountain region contains an abundance, both in variety and quantity, of granites, sandstones, marbles, and the more recent volcanic rocks, as basalts, rhyolites, and trachytes. Some of these are very beautiful, excelling anything in this respect from the Eastern States. Red granites far excelling the red Scottish granites of Peterhead, or the celebrated Egyptian "Syenite," occur in inexhaustible quantities. We have seen a black-and-white breccia marble from Pitkin, Colorado, which bids fair to be a formidable rival of the imported Portoro marble from the Monte d'Arma quarries, if it occurs in sufficient quantities and is accessible. A fine field for exploration is offered in the extensive stalagmitic deposits on the floors of the numerous caverns so prevalent in many parts of the country. These deposits, as is well known, are identical in composition with the celebrated "onyx" marbles of California, Mexico, and Egypt, already mentioned. The red and purple porphyries so abundant in New Hampshire, Eastern Massachusetts, and other parts of the country, offer an unfailing supply of beautiful and durable ornamental stones, but which are at present kept out of the market, owing to the great cost of working.
This leads us, in conclusion, to an important item in this connection that must not be overlooked, which is the fact that, with our present high rates of labor in this country, many of our finest grades of ornamental stones can not compete in the market with the imported article, even though greatly exceeding them in point of beauty. In the majority of marbles those lines or spots that give to any stone its peculiar attractiveness are in reality flaws, and hence their presence must add greatly to the cost of working. It is safe to say that the beautiful breccia marble from the French Pyrenees, which has been used for wall-panels in the cash-room of the Treasury Building at Washington, would not be worked to any extent from quarries in this country, so long as the imported article can be obtained at present rates. This fact is rendered probable by the cases of the Maryland breccia and the Vermont verd-antique already mentioned. Neither of these is in the market, simply because the imported marble can be furnished at lower prices. With improved machinery and methods of workmanship there seems, however, no doubt but we may in time compete with foreign cheap labor not only in our own markets, but foreign ones as well.
- These blocks weighed from six to ten pounds each, but, being Government matter, were allowed to pass through the mails, though greatly exceeding in weight the limit set by law.
- "Building-Stone and Quarry Industry of the United States," p. 282.