Geologic info about NYC structures:
From Canada: The first floor exterior of the Chrysler Building is faced in labradorite, a very shiny dark stone with large greenish black crystals.
All the stone around Bethesda Fountain, except for the stairs themselves, is New Brunswick sandstone. Unfortunately sandstone is a porous, soft rock, and it was badly eroded before they rebuilt Bethesda Arcade 10 or 12 years ago. The third arch in on the right side coming from the stairs has a big hole in it!
I think the stairs at Bethesda Fountain are Massachusetts granite. I think also that the steps at the 6th Avenue entrance by the Jose Marti statue are Massachusetts granite as well. I haven’t researched either of these. Does anyone know?
The Brooklyn Bridge is mostly steel, but the towers are Maine granite and Essex County, New York, limestone. The blocks are held together by Rosendale cement, a natural cement made of dolomite, from Rondout Creek up in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
Indiana in Midtown:
17 of the 18 structures in Rockefeller Center are faced with Indiana limestone, specifically Bedford limestone, as seen in the movie Breaking Away.
(The Switzerland building is faced in Swiss marble.)
A cool thing to do with student groups is to have them aim their phones at any wall of the limestone above the granite, and photograph it up close. Then ‘unpinch’ the photo and see actual fossils from the bottom of a shallow ocean that covered the whole region around where the Great Lakes are. Those creatures lived around 250 million years ago. The most recognizable ones are bryozoans, which look like miniature coral.
The Empire State Building is also faced with Indiana limestone. The various kinds of marble in its lobby come from different countries. Swiss people and Irish people swear up and down that it’s Swiss or Irish. And we Irish, by the way, really know how to swear.
Speaking of the Irish, St Patrick’s Cathedral was begun in 1859 but construction was halted when most of the workers went to fight in the American Civil War. As a gesture of healing when construction resumed, the Gothic arches of the windows and doorways are of Tennessee marble from the South. The exterior walls are of Indiana limestone from the North.
Tens of thousands of houses were built in Nassau County after the Second World War. Long Island is made of pebbles pushed down from Quebec and Ontario, by 2-mile-high glaciers, during the four ice ages. Most of the pebbles are yellow or white quartz.
There are still a few sidewalk slabs around town that are made of the gravel dug up to clear space for the basements of all those houses on Long Island.
There’s a good number in Brooklyn Heights, for instance on Orange Street right outside the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims. But really, they’re found all over town.
Ohio in the financial district:
Besides the Society of the Cincinnati plaque at Federal Hall, the Federal Reserve is faced with Ohio sandstone.
Connecticut provided most of the brownstone that was used for townhouse facades between 1840 and 1900.
Has your area contributed to the rock of New York City? Please tell us about it in the comments section!
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