Amherst, Ohio in Lorain County also had a booming stone industry with its first quarry in the area opening in the late 1840’s. Amherst was known as the sandstone center of the world and some of the largest quarries were located there. Buckeye Quarry is said to have been one of the largest quarries in the world at over 200 feet deep.
Berea Sandstone became a very popular dimension stone sometime during the 1850s. Many structures in the Western Reserve area feature this stone in their architecture, including Old Stone Church in Public Square, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument also in Public Square, and Squire’s Castle in Willoughby Hills. We are also fortunate to have the famous Berea Sandstone in many of the structures here at James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, Ohio.
The Garfields purchased their family farm in Mentor, Ohio in 1876. Over the years, many changes to the house and farm took place. Structures were modified, built, and moved. President Garfield was tragically assassinated in 1881, and his wife Lucretia was left to take care of the family and manage the farm. Through the years she made many changes and updates to the property. She oversaw construction of the structures on the property, many of which included Berea Sandstone in their architecture. The structures at James A. Garfield National Historic Site which feature this stone include the Carriage House, Gasholder, windmill, and the Garfield’s main home.
The Carriage House at James A. Garfield National Historic Site was built in 1893 to house the horse and carriages. It was part of Lucretia Garfield’s transformation of the family farm into a country estate. Today it is the site’s visitor center and what was once the carriage storage area and horse stalls are now the auditorium and museum exhibits. The exterior columns on the carriage house feature Berea Sandstone ashlar (square-cut stones that are often used for facing on brick or stone) at each of their bases. Many of the ashlar pieces have features that are typical characteristics of the sandstone such as small rust colored spots and planar and color delineated horizontal bedding.
Another structure at James A. Garfield National Historic Site that features Berea Sandstone is the Gasholder. Natural gas had been discovered on the Garfield’s property in 1882; the Gasholder was built three years later. The structure was later modified and incorporated in the Carriage House as it is seen today. Lucretia Garfield utilized natural gas in her home for heating, cooking, and lighting. The Gasholder structure is faced entirely in Berea Sandstone ashlar which is laid in parallel, horizontal courses.
Lucretia Garfield had a windmill constructed on her property in 1894. This replaced an older windmill that was on the property and was equipped with a new well, tower, storage tank, and windmill. Lucretia was very involved in the construction of this structure, which provided running water to the Garfield home. The 62-foot windmill has Berea Sandstone at its base and a wood-framed tower. The original tower and windmill were damaged and were taken down in 1939. The tower and windmill seen today were restored in 1998, thanks to an anonymous donor. The Berea Sandstone base is the original dating to 1894. During the construction of this windmill, Lucretia consulted with her youngest son Abram, who was an architectural student at M.I.T. at the time. In a letter to Abram dated June 17, 1894, she wrote “The arches are finished after one had been taken down three times, and a second twice. Finally they are not noticeably bad, and [the contractor] has learned a lesson. It may not have cost him as much as a year at “Technology” [M.I.T.] but the mortification of failing to understand such a simple principle in mathematics and thereby to have so blundered, more than offsets the cost of a little more study”. Obviously Lucretia felt that this contractor would have benefited from more schooling, and this letter shows that she placed a high value on education.
Lucretia added onto the Garfield home in 1885-86. A memorial library is included in this addition and it was built in memory of her late husband. She also attached a fireproof vault to the library which stored Garfield’s papers until they were sent to the Library of Congress beginning in the 1930s. A Cleveland architect named Forrest A. Coburn was hired to do the addition which features a Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style on the exterior. This specific architectural style was popular in the late nineteenth century and one of its hallmarks is the use of stone. This is seen here on the Garfield home, as there is a prominent use of Berea Sandstone ashlar on the addition. In contrast to the Gasholder with its ashlar in horizontal courses, the main home features its ashlar in random courses.
It is speculation which quarries Mrs. Garfield purchased all of this Berea Sandstone from. At James A. Garfield National Historic Site, we do have a copy of the “Mason’s Specifications” for the memorial library addition, but it stated that the stone used for this project was to come from a “local” quarry. Unfortunately no specific quarry was named.
The only other receipt found in our files relating to the purchase of stone is dated April 7, 1904, many years after the construction of the structures we discussed. This receipt (pictured below) was for several pieces of cut stone from the Malone Stone Company. If you look closely at the receipt, you can see the Malone Stone Company had their offices located in the Garfield Building in Cleveland, Ohio. Perhaps this was a reason why she purchased stone from this company rather than their competitors?
We may never know from which specific quarries the Berea Sandstone used in the structures located at James A. Garfield National Historic Site came. However, we do know that this stone and the industry that surrounded it was a part of history that was important to the growth and development of the local area of northeast Ohio and we can appreciate this history through the structures for which it was used and that still exist today.
-Lindsay Poluga, Park Ranger