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The Arkansas Stone and Building Industry, 1886

Excerpts from

Mineral Resources of the United States, Calendar Year

By David T. Day, Chief of Division of Mining Statistics and Technology,
Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey
Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1887.

Excerpts from the book are from the chapters on 1) Structural Materials, by William C. Day; and 2) Novaculite, by George M. Turner:

"The year 1886 opened with encouraging prospects for the building industry generally throughout the country, but scarcely were active operations fairly under way when the widely-spread labor disturbances which have made the year memorable began, making themselves felt in a number of the largest cities, both in the east and west. As soon as the labor troubles were inaugurated, many building enterprises were abandoned, and many more were postponed until the differences between labor and capital should be smoothed over. The building operations which were carried on during the period of disturbance were in most cases attended by small margins of profit to all concerned, and in some instances by disaster to contractors and to those who supplied material. Business was dull for all branches of trade connected with the building industry; demand for material was low and irregular, and values fell off quite considerably.

"This period of general depression was, however, followed by one of the greatest activity, and while it is true that many building enterprises contemplated at the beginning of the year were abandoned and not taken up again in 1886, still the fact remains that at the close of the year the showing made by the principal cities of the country was a large increase in the amount of building done, as compared with 1885.

"The kind of buildings most extensively erected during this period of activity consisted of residences, the demand for which, in view of our rapidly increasing population, is naturally at all times imperative.

"Only a few cities show positive evidence to the effect that building operations for the entire year were curtailed owing to the influence of labor troubles, although, of course, the frequently-propounded question, "What would have been the amount and value of building done in 1886 had there been no serious interruption?" is one which no one can satisfactorily answer."

"The building stone (in Memphis, Tennessee) chiefly used includes limestone from Dickson, Alabama, sandstone from Mount Sterling, Kentucky, granite from quarries near Little Rock, Arkansas."

"Little Rock (Arkansas): In this city limestone from Dickson, Alabama, and oolitic limestone from Kentucky are used chiefly; granite from quarries near the city is also employed, but not to a great extent, owing to cost of cutting. Brick is used for stores and for the best residences. Frame buildings have been in greatest demand.

"Tin is used for all flat roofs, but slate quarried near the city will probably be more and more freely used for steep roofs. Ornamental brick and tile have been used only within the past two years; their use is increasing continually, though the quantity now used is not great."


"Occurrence.-Quarries of Novaculite are at present worked in Hot Springs and Garland counties, Arkansas; in Orleans and Orange counties, Vermont; in Grafton county, New Hampshire; in Onandaga county, New York, and in Orange county, Indiana.

"Arkansas.-Arkansas produces two varieties of whetstone known as the "Washita" and "Arkansas." Both are composed of nearly pure silica in the form of minute crystals interpenetrating each other. These two varieties differ from each other only in the minuteness of the crystals and correspondingly compact arrangement. The large number of edges exposed, together with the number of very small cavities, gives to the rock its power as a whetstone. Both kinds of rock are to be found in the same quarry. Quarries are located in Montgomery, Saline, Hot Springs, and Garland counties, although the best stone comes from Garland county. The quality of the rock varies greatly in different parts of the same quarry. All gradations are to be found between the perfect whetstone, of even grit and uniform crystallization, and worthless rock of glassy and vitreous structure. The Washita, which in appearance is a white opaque stone, is found and quarried in much larger quantities than the Arkansas stone. The quality of the stone taken from the quarries during 1886 was about the same as that taken out in 1885. No new quarries were opened during the year, but several which had been lying idle for some years were reopened.

"About 650,000 pounds-150,000 pounds more than in 1885-of the rough Washita stone were placed on the market in 1886. The Arkansas stone, which is white and very finely grained, is quite translucent in comparatively thin pieces. This rock, which occurs only at intervals in the quarry, is found in a similar manner to the pockets of minerals in mines. These sections, which are rarely over 100 feet in length, contain the rock much broken up by natural forces. As a result this rock is never found in very large pieces. The market prices are about the same as those in 1885. The increased demand for the Washita in 1886 was chiefly in New York and Chicago. The call was for the low-grade stones; that is, whetstones containing more or less vitreous quartz..."

".. The Arkansas and Washita stones also find quite a market abroad."

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