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Building Stones on the Dickinson College Campus Noel Potter, Geology (retired)


Academic year: 2021

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Building Stones on the Dickinson College Campus Noel Potter, Geology (retired)

Old West, designed by Benjamin Latrobe, designer of the Capitol in Washington, was built 1804 after a fire. The building, of classic Georgian style, is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. The gray limestone was quarried locally. The trim of red sandstone (sometimes called brownstone) was probably quarried near Hummelstown, E of Harrisburg.


Old West, showing details of red sandstone trim in arches and keystone blocks over windows, steps, and quoins (trim at corners of building).


Old West. Near the upper right corner of the building as you face it from High Street, are several blocks of red sandstone (to the left of the window) where one would expect limestone. How come? Did they run out of limestone and use leftover sandstone? Or is this “artistic license” on the part of the stonemasons?


Bosler Hall, built 1885, was originally made of red sandstone (brownstone) and had a couple of turrets. In 1940-41 the building was re-faced with limestone—it has very thick outside walls today as a consequence of this. The story of the re-facing, and the odyssey of the cartouche from the brownstone building, visible at lower right and shown below, is described at:

http://chronicles.dickinson.edu/specproj/bosler/index.html The steps are made of granite.

Trim near entry and solid horizontal stripes are made of Indiana limestone.


The Bosler Hall cartouche that was above the portico of the building when its façade was red sandstone is all that is left visible of the old exterior. The sandstone was probably quarried at Hummelstown, PA. The cartouche, which weighs about 3 ½ tons, resided in several places on campus before it was moved back to near the Bosler entrance in 2000. For a history of the cartouche, see: http://chronicles.dickinson.edu/specproj/bosler/index.html


The Quarry coffee house looks like it is made of limestone, but actually is made of marble quarried in the West of Philadelphia. The building was built by Phi Delta Theta fraternity in 1899. It was purchased by the College in 1931 for $8,300, and was remodeled as classroom and office space for the Department of Psychology and Education. The building has also previously been another fraternity house, and used by the Music Department and the Geology Department—

we even had a wind tunnel under the porch.


The Quarry coffee house looks like it is made of limestone, but actually is made of marble quarried in the West of Philadelphia. The give-away is the sparkle of coarse calcite grains in the sunlight. Marble is metamorphosed limestone.


Close-up of the grainy surface of marble in the building stones for The Quarry. Sparkling grains are calcite crystals.


Althouse Hall, dedicated in 1957.

Stone is limestone, quarried in Jersey Shore, near

Williamsport, PA. The stone looks like the stone from the College Quarry near Plainfield, west of Carlisle, and indeed the Jersey Shore rock is the same layer of the same age as that near Plainfield.

Fossils in limestone in Althouse wall. Circle near pencil point is a crinoid columnal. Light colored fossil near lower right is a brachiopod.


The railing on the patio on the south side of Althouse is made of Indiana limestone, which is full of small fossils. The patio floor behind the railing is made of Pennsylvania bluestone from the mountains of northern PA.


Close-up of railing made of Indiana limestone on south side of Althouse showing fossils, including crinoid columnal below pencil point and some bryozoa.


Patio on south side of Althouse made of Pennsylvania bluestone. Note current lineations on middle slab formed by currents that deposited the fine sand.


11/5/2009—The above photos are now “obsolete.” During Summer, 2009 the old porch with Indiana limestone and Pennsylvania bluestone was removed from the front of Althouse to install a new handicapped ramp as part of renovations inside. New concrete was poured, and College stone masons are installing limestone façade on the porch. Note new doorway also.


11/5/2009—The new porch on Althouse takes shape. The limestone in the foreground will be sandblasted to make it look old and light gray.


College stonemasons Roger _____ and Jeff Gruver work on the new front porch of Althouse.


Lobby inside Althouse. Polished stone behind portrait of Mr. Althouse is serpentine, a metamorphic rock quarried in Vermont and sold under the trade name of Verde Antique.


Weiss Center for the Arts, originally Alumni Gymnasium opened in 1929, renovated as Weiss Center in 1983, is made of local limestone.


Weiss Center front steps are made of granite, probably from Barre, VT.


Patio in front of Weiss Center is made of Pennsylvania bluestone (upper left) and artificially made cement pavers (lower right). Note how the bluestone spalls or flakes (near junction between materials.


Denny Hall (1905) is made of red sandstone, often called brownstone (lower parts, steps, window trim, and quoins), and bricks above. The Triassic sandstone was quarried at Hummelstown, east of Harrisburg.


Random-coursed ashlar



Spahr Library (1968) panels between windows are made of local limestone. Original entrance was where the mullioned windows are today.

Spahr Library (1969) is made of local limestone, laid in irregular rubblework pattern.


Waidner Library was added to Spahr in 1998.

Waidner Library walls consist of Ordovician limestone from the College Quarry near Plainfield.

The stone is laid in random ashlar pattern.


Drayer Hall 1952) made of local limestone.

Porch on west side of Drayer Hall, made of Pennsylvania bluestone. Note current lineations in large left slab and right center slab.


Gate at corner of West and High Street—made of schist.

Schist in gate at corner of West and High Street.


Wall along S side of High St near Morgan Hall. Light gray weathered stone is from the College Quarry near Plainfield. Note that layering in rock seldom shows.

Wall along N side of High St opposite Old West. This stone is NOT from the Plainfield Quarry.

Many of the pieces have distinct layering, suggesting another source nearby, but we don’t know exactly where the stone came from. It is similar to the stone in Old West.


East College was originally built in 1836, and renovated for the humanities in 1969, when the building was gutted, and then one end of the stone façade fell in. The rest of the stone façade was then torn down, and it was re-built with the original stone, local limestone. Stone is laid as random ashlar.


Close up of limestone in East College.


Benjamin Rush statue near SE corner of Old West.


Base of Benjamin Rush statue. Floor and railing tops are made of granite from Barre, VT.

Beneath railings the rock is limestone from the Dickinson College Quarry near Plainfield.


Stern Center, formerly Tome Scientific Building, originally built in 1884, and renovated in 2000 as the Stern Center, is made of local limestone with sandstone trim. Bill Vernon, who was at Dickinson when a Geology major and department were approved in December, 1957, taught one of his first classes in the basement of “Old” Tome in a room with a dirt floor.


Front of Stern Center. Trim above and below window and below sign are made of Ohio sandstone. Stern Center sign is made of granite, which replaced an older sign made of granite that said “Scientific Building.”


Stern Center—tan, somewhat rusty trim is made of Ohio sandstone. The rest of the rock is local limestone.


Stern Center patio looks like it has bluestone pavers, but don’t be fooled. The “pavers” are poured concrete, which is then stamped with a pattern to make it look like real stone.


Dorms in “The Quad” were originally built in as fraternity houses first occupied in 1964. Their stone is Ordovician limestone, quarried at Jersey Shore, near Williamsport, PA. More recently some of the buildings have been renovated, and “connected” by new construction. The stone for the newer connectors was quarried at the Dickinson College Quarry near Plainfield. The stone is the same age as that from Jersey shore.


Kisner-Woodward Hall (1969) is made of local limestone.


Stone in Kisner-Woodward is laid as irregular rubblework.


The stone in Tome Hall (2000) is Ordovician limestone that was quarried at the Dickinson College Quarry west of Carlisle near Plainfield.


Stone in the new Science Building (2008) is not local. It is limestone imported from Indiana.


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