The National Park Service announced today the launch of a new website with information about the stones that built America, at https://ncptt.nps.gov/buildingstone/. Stone is an important building material used in many of the Nation’s most significant historic places. The National Register of Historic Places, an official list of the Nation’s historic places, contains over 35,000 buildings, monuments, and sites where stone was used.
The website, named the National Building Stone Database, is part of an ongoing effort to document important quarries and the stone they produce. “The database is intended as a tool for the historic preservation community to use in identifying matches for stone used to repair historic buildings and monuments,” said Kirk Cordell, Executive Director of the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) where physical samples are housed. “Many quarries, like those that supplied the brownstone used in landmark buildings in New York City, Boston, and Chicago, have closed. It is increasingly difficult to find suitable matches for repair work.”
Matching stone for repair work is not as simple as it might sound. “Finding appropriate replacement stone is not just a matter of locating a good color match,” said Cordell. “The stone has to have physical properties that are similar to adjacent historic material. That’s why we’ve spent so much time documenting physical test results and creating and analyzing thin-sections, or very thin (0.001 inches thick) slices of stone that we look at under a special microscope.”
Conceived and built by former NCPTT Architectural Conservator Ed FitzGerald, the database currently contains over a hundred types of stone. It remains a work in progress, and researchers will continue to document and add new stones into the future. “Right now we are focusing on collecting stone that is available from active quarries,” said Cordell. “As the project grows, we hope to add examples of stone from historic sites and document buildings and monuments where we know specific types of stone were used.”
The National Park Service is looking to continue to expand the database and physical collection and is accepting donations of stone from quarries and private individuals. Details about donating stone can be found on the website, at https://ncptt.nps.gov/buildingstone/submitting-samples.