By Horace Greeley, Leon Case, Edward Howland, John B. Gough,
Phillip Ripley, F. B. Perkins, J. B. Lyman, Albert Brisbane, Rev. E. E. Hall,
and Other Eminent Writers Upon Political and Social Economy, Mechanics,
Manufacturers, Etc., Etc.
First Granite used in the United States - Old Foundations and Walls - The Quincy Granite - First Railroad in The Country - The Granite Hills of New England - The Astor House and Other Great Granite Buildings - The Statuary Marbles of Vermont - Variegated Marbles in Various States - The Capitol at Washington - Serpentine and Verd Antique - Westchester and Sing Sing Stone - New Jersey Stone - Hudson River Flagging and Curbing Stone - Quarries Throughout the Country - Slate Quarries - Grindstones and Millstones.
Although the early colonists of Massachusetts found, or could have found, abundant building material, yet for more than a century wood was almost universally used. In 1657 in such buildings in Boston as, according to the description, were "fairly set forth with brick, tile, slate, and stone," these materials were imported. A single building (King's Chapel) was built of the Braintree granite, in 1752, the first granite used in the country. The Dutch of New York, who imported the yellow brick from Holland, put stone on the free list, in 1648, to encourage its introduction from abroad, when literal "free stone" might have been had for the quarrying close by in New Jersey.
The foundations still standing of old wooden buildings erected in the last century show that the early settlers made use of such surface stone as were readily procurable for this purpose, as the rocks in the fields and on the hill-sides furnishing the supply, while the small pieces were used in the stone-wall boundaries of farms and fields. The extensive quarrying of the Quincy, Mass., granite began early in the present century, and the first railroad in the country was built from these quarries, three miles to the Neponset River, in 1827. It was a horse railroad, exclusively for the transportation of this stone for shipment.
All New England abounds in granite, which is also found in the highlands of the Hudson River, on Staten Island, on Delaware Bay, in South Carolina, in Georgia, in California, and in a few other states. There are very superior quarries on the coast of Maine, which have the advantage of easy shipment, while the stone is fully equal to that of Massachusetts. For hardness and durability the Quincy granite is most esteemed. It is seen in many buildings in the large cities on the Atlantic coast, and has been exported to the West Indies. Notable buildings of this stone are the Merchants' exchange (now used as a Custom House) and the Astor House in New York, and the Custom House in New Orleans. Enormous blocks for pillars, weighing many tons, have been got out in these quarries, and the stone for many buildings have been cut, finished, and numbered at the quarries in readiness for laying in their proper place in the building, which may be hundreds of miles away. The granite is quarried by drilling holes to a small depth in the face of the rock, into which small steel wedges are inserted and driven, and the blocks of almost any size are thus split off. The granite of Staten Island, and of Weehawken, N. J., is much denser than the Quincy stone, and has been largely used in the Russ and Belgian pavement in New York and in other cities.
Limestone and white marbles are plentiful in the United States, particularly in Vermont, Western Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. American marbles were first used in making busts in Philadelphia in 1804. The Rutland, Vt., quarries now supply statuary marbles, which, in whiteness, texture, and purity, equal the celebrated marble of Carrara. Several of the statues designed for the interior of the Capitol at Washington are from this marble. The working of the Vermont quarries to any extent is of comparatively recent date. In 1834 a factory, with one hundred and fifty saws, was established at Black River, in Plymouth, Vt., for the manufacture of marble from white and variegated limestone. Some of the finest American variegated marbles are taken from quarries in the north of Vermont, near Lake Champlain. Gray and clouded limestones, quarried in Maine, are much used for marble mantels. California produces a brilliant red and brown variegated marble, which can be highly polished, and is much used for ornamental purposes. The Potomac River quarries turn out brecciated marbles. The Knoxville, Tenn., red marbles have been considerably used in the interior of the Capitol extensions at Washington, and in other government buildings. Very handsome fossiliferous marbles, containing petrified shells, have been found in different parts of the United States.
Serpentine and verd antique marble quarries were worked fifty years ago in Connecticut, and they are found in most of the New England states, and in various parts of New York and Pennsylvania.
Of the white marbles, the Westchester and Sing Sing, in New York, and the Vermont marbles, are largely used for building purposes. The pillars of the Girard College, in Philadelphia, are from the Berkshire, Mass., quarries, and the rest of the building is from the Pennsylvania quarries. The marble in the New York (old) City Hall is from Massachusetts. The stone in the old Custom House, now the United States Sub-treasury, in New York, is from the Eastchester quarries. The use of marble for building purposes, particularly in New York, is to a considerable extent superseding the brown stone.
Marble from Italy, and some manufactured marble, to the amount, perhaps, of three hundred thousand dollars a year, is imported, and the United States exports an equal or larger value of manufactured marbles and other stone to Cuba and to the New Dominion. There are not less than twenty-five hundred marble and stone works in this country, whose annual manufacturers amount to twenty to twenty-five million dollars.
The brown freestone, or sandstone, quarried at Portland (formerly a part of Chatham), Conn., has been freely used in building in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities. These quarries, which are opposite Middletown, on the Connecticut River, have been worked more than a century, and stone in them is now taken out at a depth of more than two hundred feet below the river. In these quarries were found, in 1802, many feet below the surface, fossil footprints of gigantic birds, some of the prints measuring sixteen inches in length and ten in width, while the tracks were from four to six feet apart. Whole streets, in the upper part of New York, are lined with brown stone fronts from the Portland quarries; but the most of these are ashler fronts, of a thin veneering of brownstone, backed with brick. This stone works easily into the most ornamental forms; but it is liable to be affected by the weather, and the frost sometimes causes it to scale and crumble.
These are the principal building stones found and used in the United States. Illinois produces an excellent marble, which is much used in Chicago and other cities. Ohio supplies a very handsome yellow stone to Cincinnati and Cleveland. In New York, of late years, a great deal of drab-colored stone, which is a freestone, but of the species generally quarried for fine grindstones, has been imported from new Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Several varieties of the harder sandstones, especially those found in Ulster, Green, and Albany Counties, in New York, and along the Hudson River, are quarried in broad sheets for flagging and curbing. Similar quarries have lately been operated on the west bank of the Connecticut between Hartford and Saybrook. A bright sandstone, containing considerable mica, has for many years been quarried in the Bolton Range, in Connecticut, and used for flagging.
In 1805 a company was incorporated in Pennsylvania for obtaining slate supplies from Northampton County, for roofing and other purposes. Since then very valuable quarries have been opened elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Vermont New York, and Maryland. The extensive slate quarries on the Piscataquis River, forty miles above Bangor, in Maine, were opened in 1839. The slates were quarried and easily split into the desired thickness or thinness for various purposes, large quantities being used for roofing and for school slates.
The Virginia slates are generally green and purple; the New York quarries yield green, purple, and red slates, which are used in combination with other colors to give variety and figures on roofs. The Vermont quarries, including not less than one hundred different quarries between the Green Mountains and the Hudson River, produce roofing slate, material for tiles, mantels, sills, caps, billiard-table beds, and many ornamental as well as useful purposes. The machinery is extensive and perfect, and water or steam drives the cutters and planers. Occasionally large blocks are got out for monuments or bases, and the slate is of the greatest purity, while the supply seems to be inexhaustible.
Grindstones, millstones, and whetstones are quarried in New York, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and a few other states.