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The Stone Industry in the Vicinity of Chicago, Illinois1


By. William C. Alden.

From Contributions to Economic Geology - 1902, Bulletin 213

Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey,
Charles D. Walcott, Director

S. F. Emmons and C. W. Hayes, Geologists in Charge
Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1903.


The supply of limestone within the Chicago district, so exposed or so thinly covered as to be easily reached, seems to be quite adequate to the demand; at least, not all the exposures are so distributed as to be convenient to Chicago and its nearest suburbs, but the country districts lying in the morainal track are not so well supplied.

Building Stone.

The strata considered by Dr. Bannister as the lower division of the Niagara group afford one of the best building stones in the State. These are exposed on the floor of Desplaines Valley northeast of Lemont. The location, being formerly known as Athens, gave the name "Athens marble" to the rock, by which name it is known wherever used. The same beds are seen in the western end of the Sag, at its junction with Desplaines Valley. The rock at the Western Stone Company's quarries, Lemont, is a fine-grained, even-textured limestone, of an agreeable light-drab color when first taken from the quarry. On exposure to the air the color changes to a buff or yellow. The rock rubs well, though not capable of receiving a very fine polish. It is regularly bedded, the layers ranging from 6 inches to nearly 3 feet in thickness, thus affording fine cut and sawed dimension stone and flagging.

The quarries of the Illinois Stone Company in the same vicinity show the same even-bedded limestone and produce dimension and rubble stone and flagging.

At Sag Bridge the quarries of the Phoenix Stone Company produces a fine grade of even-grained, solid limestone. The courses increase in thickness downward, becoming nearly 8 feet thick at the bottom, with little or no fracturing. The produce is fine cut and sawed dimension stone, rubble, and five grades of crushed stone for macadam.

The quarry of the Calumet Stone Company, 1 miles east of Sag Bridge, shows stone of excellent quality. A small quarry on the north side of the Sag has turned out a small amount of a dense, fine-grained rock of very good quality.

These are the principal localities yielding good dimension stone, as here the strata have suffered little or no disturbance and hence show little fracturing. The facilities for transportation by railroad and by canal are excellent.

The quarry 1 mile west of Elmhurst, on the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, puts out building stone, including some dimension stone.

Rubble, Macadam, and Lime.

As most of the quarries furnish crushed stone for macadam and rubble for foundations, and some furnish lime, they will be noted in order, beginning with those in Chicago. The rock at all the quarries is well adapted for macadam, as it is a hard, gray dolomite, in places very siliceous, and the fractured condition of the strata makes it comparatively easy to remove. At the intersection of Chicago and Western avenues, about three-fourths of a mile southeast of Humboldt Park, the quarries of the Artesian Stone and Lime Works Company produce crushed stone for macadam and lime.

The quarries of the Chicago Union Lime Works Company at the intersection of Nineteenth and Lincoln streets, about a mile east of Douglas Park, have been excavated to a depth of 175 feet. The limestone is a dolomite containing about 54 per cent carbonate of lime and 44 per cent carbonate of magnesium.

The quarries of the Sterns Lime and Stone Company at Bridgeport, near Twenty-seventh and Halsted streets, produce lime and crushed stone for macadam.

The quarries of Dolese & Shepard, at Hawthorne, on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway, produce building and dimension stone, crushed stone for macadam and concrete, and limestone for flux.

At Thorton, on the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad, the quarries of the Brownell Improvement Company produce crushed stone for macadam containing about 36 per cent of silica, giving it a very durable quality. Their quarries at Gary, Ill., on Desplaines River, produce a dense, even-grained limestone in little-fractured strata. Some foundation stone is gotten out, but the rock is rather hard to dress. The product is largely crushed stone for paving.

At the outcrop, 1 mile southwest of Blue Island, considerable rock has been removed for foundation stone. It is stated that a bed of bluish, impure limestone has been worked here for hydraulic cement. Mr. J. V. Q. Blaney reports the following analysis of this limestone:

Analysis of limestone 1 mile southeast of Blue Island

Clay and insoluble matter
Carbonate of lime
Carbonate of magnesium
Peroxide of iron
Soluble silica
Alkalies, loss, etc.

At his place about 2 miles southwest of Blue Island, Mr. Henry Schwartz has quarried a limited amount of good foundation stone. There is abundant rock here, easily accessible.

The quarry 1 mile west of Elmhurst, on the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, produces crushed stone.

The quarry of Kogle & Smith, about 3 miles southeast of Elmhurst, yields crushed stone. Some building stone is also taken out.

At the outcrop, 1 mile northwest of Lagrange, on the bank of Salt Creek, a quarry has been opened which is turning out crushed stone for macadam.

Mr. Fred Schultz puts out crushed stone and lime from his quarry at Lyons.

At McCook, on the Santa Fe Railway, near the canals, are the quarries of the Chicago Crushed Stone Company. Rubble for foundations is also produced.

Not all of the rock exposures have been utilized for economic purposes. The following may be noted as affording productive sites should the demand require: One mile northwest of Humboldt Park; corner of North Central Park avenue and Humboldt avenue; two blocks west of Humboldt Park; in the vicinity of Robey and Twenty-third streets; on the lake shore in Windsor Park, at the foot of Cheltenham place; on either side of Railroad avenue, between Ninety-fourth and Ninety-fifth streets, and six blocks west, between Ninety-fifth and Ninety-sixth streets.

At "Stony Island" two quarries have produced considerable rock, but are now unused. There is abundant rock thinly covered north and west of Thornton. Two miles south of Glenwood and three-fourths of a mile east of the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad the rock is rather thinly covered in the hill slope. Three and one-half miles south of Elmhurst rock can be obtained in the west bank of Salt Creek. Abundant rock is thinly covered south and east of Lyons; also down Desplaines Valley from McCook, along the north side of the river. At Sag Bridge and at Lemont abundant rock is easily quarried. The southwestern part of the area is most poorly supplied, though the proximity of Joliet may counterbalance this deficiency. Only two exposures were noted in this part of the area, one 5 miles east of Orland, along the banks of a small creek; the other along the bed of Hickory Creek, near New Lenox.

Where the bituminous limestone has been used for building purposes the staining gives a peculiarly venerable appearance to the structure. There is, however, the disadvantage that the melting and running out of the bitumen may give a disagreeable streaking to the walls.

The abundant drift bowlders of limestone, sandstone, igneous and metamorphic rocks have furnished material for many picturesque and beautiful buildings within the district and could supply a further demand. There are also in value in the construction of piers and breakwaters.

Sand and Gravel.

The wide distribution of sand and gravel over the Chicago Plain has afforded abundant material for building sand, roofing and road gravels, and for filling. The extensive deposits of dune sand along the present lake shore, along the west side of the Blue Island ridge, southwest and south of Hammond, Ind., and east of Thornton, furnish abundant fine, clean sand. The deposits of glacial gravel furnish the coarser gravels, with some sand and fine gravel. Several large pits have been opened about a mile north of Willow Springs, in the north slope of Desplaines Valley. The deposits here are assorted into several grades of gravel for building, paving, and ballast purposes. The output at these pits is 20 to 25 carloads per day. Numerous pits have been opened at various points along Desplaines Valley, showing material grading from sand and gravel to very stony till, composed almost entirely of well-worn limestone pebbles and bowlders. In places this limestone is partially cemented into a conglomerate, so as to come out in large masses. One-half mile southwest of Worth Messrs. Henke & Read have opened a large gravel pit. The gravels here are assorted into grades of two sizes. Ten to twelve thousand cubic yards have been taken out per annum. At Blue Island, just north of Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway station, there is an extensive deposit of the coarser beach gravel. The entire south end of the ridge seems to be composed of these gravels.

1 Contributions to Economic Geology, Bulletin 213, 1902, pg. 357 footnote: Abstract from Geologic Atlas U. S. folio 81, Chicago.

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