Photo of the week for 10/26/2009

Brownstone Quarry Near Hummelstown

Brownstone Quarry Near Hummelstown

One of the earliest brownstone quarries in Pennsylvania opened in the 1700's on the Berst property near Hummelstown. The stone was first used for tombstones in the local cemetery and for the Berst farm house, which was built in 1800. In the 1860's Henry Brown of Harrisburg established the Brown Freestone Company after shipping stone from the quarry to be used in the Dauphin County Courthouse, and in 1867 Allen Walton of Philadelphia expanded the company into the Philadelphia and Baltimore markets. Ten years later Walton purchased the Pennsylvania Brownstone Company, which operated a nearby quarry, and formed the Hummelstown Brownstone Company. The property, including offices, quarries, mill, and stone-dressing shops covered more than one thousand acres.

The Tenth Census of the United States reported that "the material here is a brown, massive sandstone of a uniform and medium texture, and is quarried for caps, sills, trimmings, bases, steps and other building purposes. It has been much used in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Williamsport, Pottsville, Reading, Lancaster, York, Richmond, Baltimore, Washington and other cities of the east. Blocks of as large a size as are desirable may be taken out."

Among the hundreds of buildings that used stone from the quarry are the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington D.C., the North American Building in Philadelphia, the National Exchange Bank in Baltimore, several Dickinson, Gettysburg, and State College buildings, the Arcade Building in Cleveland, and Union Station in Indianapolis. It was used as far as a court house in Orlando, Florida.

Allen Walton built a four-mile railroad in 1886 to connect the quarries to the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad at Brownstone Station: the Brownstone and Middletown Railroad Company (or B & M). When Allen Walton died in 1898, his sons took over the company until it closed in 1928. Photo ID: MG698-2977.

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