Shipping stone by boat; the Silurian stone industry of the northern Great Lakes; Geological Society of America, North-Central Section, 42nd annual meeting

Joanne Kluessendorf, Donald G. Mikulic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Silurian dolomitic strata outcropping along the bluffs of the Niagara Escarpment, which borders some of the Great Lakes shoreline, have long been an important source of stone. Exposed extensively along parts of Lake Michigan in northeastern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and on Ontario's Bruce Peninsula in Lake Huron, these rocks were prized by early settlers as an excellent source of building materials. Because population density in these areas was and still is low, local demand for the stone has been minimal. The ease and low cost with which these rocks could be quarried, placed on boats, and shipped to more distant markets, however, led to the development of a successful stone industry in the region. During the first half of the nineteenth century, harbor construction at various sites around Lake Michigan created a demand for large volumes of stone. The U. S. government reserved quarry land in Door County, Wisconsin, to serve as a source of material for these projects, and a number of harbors in southern Lake Michigan were initially built with this stone. By the late 1800s excellent building stone also was produced from the Byron Dolomite in Door County. Widespread commercial use of "Athens Marble" quarried in northern Illinois, however, confined the use of Door County building stone primarily to the northern half of Lake Michigan. Despite this, several large quarrying operations opened around Sturgeon Bay, on the western side of the Door County Peninsula, to satisfy the rising demand for harbor construction stone. Throughout the early 1900s, the need for flux stone used in the steel industry at such distant locations as Cleveland increased the demand for stone from this region. As a result, new quarries and shipping ports were developed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The last of the original quarries on Wisconsin's Door Peninsula, which employed lake shipping, closed in the 1940s, and the area has become a popular tourist destination. As demand for construction stone continued to increase, however, the quarries in Michigan expanded greatly. Because the cost of shipping by water is an inexpensive form of transportation, these sources may continue to supply crushed stone in the future for large metropolitan areas, such as Chicago, even if a local source of material is available.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAbstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America
Place of PublicationBoulder, CO
PublisherGeological Society of America
ISBN (Print)0016-7592
StatePublished - 2009


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