Garfield Rocks! (Part II)

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.

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Buckeye Quarry was located in Amherst, Ohio.  Look at the people in the bottom of the quarry for scale and to get a sense of just how deep it was!  (Amherst Historical Society)

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.

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The carriage house on the Garfield home was built in 1893 and housed the property’s horses and carriages.  Berea Sandstone ashlar can be seen on the on the bases of the columns.  (National Park Service)

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A closer view of the ashlar at the base of the columns on the carriage house.  The center ashlar piece is an example of color delineated horizontal bedding that is a common characteristic of Berea Sandstone.  (National Park Service)

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.

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The gasholder was built in 1885 and is faced with Berea Sandstone ashlar.  Inside you can see the tank and holder.  Mrs. Lucretia Garfield used natural gas for heating, cooking, and lighting in the  main house.  (National Park Service)

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.

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The windmill on the grounds of James A. Garfield National Historic Site.  The base is Berea Sandstone.  The arches are blocks of the sandstone and the rest of the stone is ashlar.  In this image you can see the arches Lucretia referred to in the letter she wrote to her son Abram and that the contractor had to rebuild several times during construction.  (National Park Service)

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.

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The Berea Sandstone ahslar used on the 1885-86 addition to the Garfield home.  This view shows the back of the home and looks south.  (National Park Service)

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.

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Receipt for stone purchased by Lucretia Garfield from the Malone Stone Company of Cleveland.  This receipt is dated after the erection of the structures containing Berea Sandstone that are now part of James A. Garfield National Historic Site.  However, it is possible that Mrs. Garfield may have purchased stone from this company for their original construction.  (National Park Service/Western Reserve Historical Society)

-Lindsay Poluga, Park Ranger

Garfield Rocks! (Part I)

If you have ever driven over the Hope Memorial Bridge (previously known as the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge) in Cleveland or have visited the James A. Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery, you have seen the famous Berea Sandstone, which is a classic stone used in many structures in northeastern Ohio. The Berea Sandstone is well-known due to its extensive quarrying history and its use in many historic structures not only locally, but around the United States.

According to geologists, the Berea Sandstone dates back to the Late Devonian,  which was about 359 – 383 million years ago.  This was long before the existence of dinosaurs! At this time in the Earth’s history, much of Ohio (as well as much of the interior of North America) was covered by a shallow sea.  The quartz grains which largely make up the Berea Sandstone were deposited on the margins of the shallow sea and later lithified to form this sandstone.  The Berea Sandstone rock unit can be found in various counties in northeastern and central Ohio and it has been quarried from many of these counties including Erie, Huron, Lorain, Cuyahoga, Summit, Geauga, Lake, Ashtabula, and Trumbull.

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The Hope Memorial Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio is not a masonry bridge, but the pylons, sidewalks, and trim are made of Berea Sandstone.  This image shows stone carvers posing by one of the pylons that are along the bridge.  The figures are called the “Guardians of Transportation.”  (Encyclopedia of Cleveland History)

 

Quarrying of the Berea Sandstone may have started as early as the 1820’s in Ohio, but census records from 1880 date quarries opening in Berea, Ohio in 1830. Many quarries opened in Ohio throughout the 19th century. There may have been 100 or more historic quarries of various sizes that operated in northeastern Ohio, some being so small that they were never even mapped.  Quarrying of this stone has since ended in all counties except Erie, where the only active Berea Sandstone quarry is still in operation today.  Some of the old quarries are now filled with water and are scenic lakes. Two for example, are Coe Lake and Wallace Lake, both located in Berea, Ohio.

Quarrying of the Berea Sandstone and the rise in the industry began in the city of Berea, the place the rock was named after.  The famous Berea quarries actually began as grindstone suppliers and later became dimension stone suppliers  (dimension stone is rock that is sawn and split into various sizes and shapes and is used often as building blocks, ashlar veneer, sills, steps, etc.).  The Berea Sandstone is also historically known as the Berea Grit, which was the name given to the rock unit in 1870 by a well-known Ohio geologist, John Strong Newberry.  Today it is usually referred to as the Berea Sandstone (which is both the formal name of the geologic rock unit and its commercial name in the stone industry).

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The James A. Garfield Memorial in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery was dedicated in 1890, nine years after the President’s death.  The structure is faced with Berea Sandstone.  The detailed areas on the Memorial are also Berea Sandstone.  (Wikipedia)

Many attribute the rise in the stone industry to one man in particular, John Baldwin. In 1828 John Baldwin, the founder of what is known today as Baldwin-Wallace University, moved to the area of Berea, Ohio.  Baldwin played an integral part in the development of the grindstone industry here.  There are a various versions of the story of how John Baldwin first discovered the Berea Sandstone; thus, the story will differ depending on the source.  One source says he discovered a piece of the rock in a river as he was walking home, and the rocks texture and grit led him to believe it would make an excellent grindstone.  Others believe that Baldwin discovered the stone while digging a cellar for his house.  And still others say that the Berea sandstone was already known by many to be an excellent grindstone, but Baldwin was the first to make a highly successful business out of the this gritty sandstone that had the unique quality of essentially re-sharpening itself   (when the surface becomes dull, the worn particles will break off and expose fresh, sharp particles).

Baldwin was innovative and mastered the technique of cutting grindstones.  He invented a water powered lathe to cut sandstone slabs into grindstones.  A large quarry in Berea was opened by Baldwin and he even built a private railway with oxen-pulled cars that took the stone to the railroad.  The industry grew rapidly and many saw dollar signs, so people in Berea quickly starting buying land for the purpose of quarrying.  This brought jobs to many people and by the 1870’s, 500 men were employed by the Berea quarries.  Berea eventually acquired the nickname the “Grindstone City” and the “Grindstone Capital of the World”.

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Big Quarry in Berea, Ohio, ca. 1880.  (Berea Historical Society)

(Check back soon for Part II!)

-Lindsay Poluga, Park Ranger