Postcards of Terre Haute - Indiana Limestone (1)

Indiana Limestone (1)

Indiana Limestone is considered to be the highest quality limestone quarried in the United States and not surprisingly it was used in the construction of some of Terre Haute's most prestigious buildings. The main source is in the area between Bloomington and Bedford in south central Indiana, which gives the stone its other common name of Bedford Limestone though its more correct name is Salem limestone.

Salem limestone, like all limestone, is a rock primarily formed of calcium carbonate. The limestone was deposited over millions of years as marine fossils decomposed at the bottom of a shallow inland sea which covered most of the present-day Midwestern United States during the Early Carboniferous or Mississippian Period which lasted for 40 million years, from 359 to 318 million years ago.

Although used by Native Americans and early settlers, the first large scale quarrying started in 1827, and by 1929, 340,000 cubic metres (12 million cubic feet) were being extracted. Salem limestone was officially designated as the "state stone" of Indiana by the Indiana General Assembly in 1971. Nowadays, nearly 76,500 cubic metres (2.7 million cubic feet) of Indiana Limestone is quarried each year generating about $26 million annually in revenue. The limestone deposit is approximately 45 miles long, between 2 and 14 miles wide and between 25 and 100 feet thick. This means that there are approximately 19,000 million cubic metres (660,000 milliom cubic feet) in the deposit, which at a density of 2,306 kg per cubic metre (144 lbs per cubic foot) is equal to 44,000 million metric tons, also spelled tonnes, (48,000,000 million short tons (2,000 lbs) or 43,000 million long tons (2,240 lbs)). At the current rate of extraction the deposit should last around 250,000 years!

Indiana limestone deposit

The Indiana Limestone Deposit

Whilst collecting the Terre Haute postcards I've come across several fine postcards of the quarrying of Indiana Limestone and these are included here as another facet of Terre Haute's architectural history.

Natural stone steps - P. M. & B. Quarry, Bedford, Indiana

Natural stone steps - P. M. & B. Quarry, Bedford, Indiana

P. M. & B. Quarry, Bedford, Indiana

P. M. & B. Quarry, Bedford, Indiana

The P. M. & B. quarry is owned by the Indiana Limestone Company. It was from this quarry that limestone was extracted from the "Empire Hole" to provide the limestone for the Empire State Building which was opened in 1931. The "Empire Hole" was also the source of the limestone for the building's major 2001 renovations.

As far as I can tell, P. M. & B. refers to the Perry, Matthews, and Buskirk Stone Company. The company was founded by Captain Gilbert K. Perry of Ellettsville; Fred Matthews of Bloomington; W. N. Matthews of Bedford and Philip Kearney Buskirk of Bloomington in 1889. They opened the Horseshoe quarry which proved to be the most valuable stone property in the Oolitic belt on 240 acres of land at Bluff Ridge, 5 miles north of Bedford.. They had put all of their capital into the company and would have gone bankrupt if the company had failed. The limestone lay in a bed 50ft thick.

By 1896, they were operating 10 channel machines, 6 derricks, 4 drills and 3 pumps, all operated by steam and were extracting 700,000 cubic feet of stone per year. In one month they could extract 85,000 feet.

They later sold the quarry for $600,000. When he died in 1907, Buskirk was the only survivor of the original four founders.

A detailed description of the quarry appears on pages 411 - 419 of the 32nd Report by Indiana. Dept. of Geology and Natural Resources, Indiana. Dept. of Statistics and Geology


History of Lawrence and Monroe Counties, Indiana
Philip Kearney Buskirk

Baltes Stone Quarry

Baltes Stone Quarry, Montpelier, Indiana

This postcard, posted in Montpelier on November 2nd, 1909, has the printed text...

09 8871
Weixelbaum Quality Collochrom, lima, O.
Made in Germany

Montpelier is to the northeast of Indianapolis and so out of the main limestone area around Bedford that most of these postcards are from.

Big Four Quarry, Mitchell

Big Four Quarry, Mitchell, Indiana

This postcard, posted in July 1908, has the printed text...

Hand Colored
Art Mfg. Co., Amelia, O.

Mitchell is about 10 miles south of Bedford. The Big Four was one of the first quarries opened in the area in 1889. There were two seams were cut through the 14ft thick limestone and both turned out to be bad. The limestone was course grained and had a bad odour. The quarry was soon abandoned but appears to have been reopened for general stone quarrying.

Source: 21st Annual Report - 1896 by Indiana. Dept. of Geology and Natural Resources

Indiana Limestone Quarry, Bedford

Indiana Limestone Quarry, Bedford

The text on the postcard says "This scene of the Indiana Limestone Company, the largest limestone company in the world, was taken at the north edge of Oolitic. It shows the Joiner Mill in the background, large stacks of huge blocks of stone and water reservoir at the Walsh Quarry. The water is used in the mills. Some of the blocks of stone weigh as much as 25 tons."

In 1948, the Walsh Quarry is reported to be the largest building limestone quarry in the world. It was named for John R. Walsh, a Chicago financier, who purchased it from the Bedford Quarries Company in 1895.

Source: Indiana Geologic Field Conference Upper and Middle Mississippian Formations of Southern Indiana

Indiana Limestone Quarry

Indiana Limestone Quarry

The text on the postcard says "Beautiful Bedford Stone comes from quarries like this. Located one-half mile North of Oolitic, Indiana." Oolitic is 3.5 miles north west of Bedford.

Indiana Limestone Quarry

Indiana Limestone Quarry

The text on the postcard says "Located 2 miles north of Bedford, Indiana on Road 37. This is one of the largest in the world."

Indiana Limestone Quarry, near Bedford, Indiana

Indiana Limestone Quarry, near Bedford, Indiana

The text on the postcard says "Limestone quarried and fabricated near Bedford, Indiana, center of the Indiana limestone industry , has long been a favorite among architects. Bedford stone possesses both beauty and durability, lending itself easily to carving and delicate tracery. Cuts of stone are extracted from the solid floor or ledge of the quarry, drilled and broken up into mill blocks, hoisted from the quarry by derricks and transported to the mill for fabrication."

This page created 11th June 2008, last modified 23rd September 2009

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