North-Central Section - 48th Annual Meeting (24–25 April)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 3:20 PM


KLUESSENDORF, Joanne, Weis Earth Science Museum, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, 1478 Midway Road, Menasha, WI 54952 and MIKULIC, Donald G., Illinois State Geological Survey, University of Illinois, 615 E. Peabody Dr, Champaign, IL 61820-6964,

Silurian Sugar Run Dolomite of NE Illinois and related rock units served as the primary building stone for Midwest construction during the mid to late 1800s. Marketed under a range of commercial names including Athens Marble, Joliet Marble, Lemont Stone, and Joliet Stone, this stone was used in prominent homes, schools, churches, bridges, as well as governmental, commercial and industrial buildings. It also was commonly used for foundations in structures that were built of brick and other materials. Although called “marble,” this rock is actually dolomite.

Prior to widespread use of Indiana Bedford Limestone in the 1890s, Athens Marble was the premiere building stone of the Midwest. It was a highly valued building material because it was well bedded, hard, even textured, and white in color when freshly quarried. Most importantly, some strata were exceptionally thick (3-4 ft) unlike most other rock units of the region, making it ideal for strong foundations and substantial buildings. Although not very fossiliferous, unweathered blocks of this stone commonly reveal complete specimens of the trilobite Gravicalymene celebra.

Although first quarried (1830s) for local use at Joliet, IL, extensive deposits of this stone were discovered near Lemont during construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal (1838-1848) and used widely for locks, walls and other canal-related structures. With the canal opening and the access it provided to the rapidly growing Chicago market, this stone was in high demand for uses that had been met previously by construction materials shipped from distances as far away as Lockport, NY. With the development of a railroad system, the market for Athens Marble expanded quickly beyond the Chicago region, and it was used for prominent buildings throughout the Midwest. Most noteworthy, this rock was employed in many federal, state and local government buildings, primarily as exterior stone. Surviving examples of federal use include the floors in the White House and many Rock Island Arsenal buildings. Existing state structures include the Illinois State Capital, floors in the Wisconsin State Capital, the Joliet Penitentiary, and the Chicago Drainage Canal. Examples of existing local government buildings in Illinois include the Macoupin County Court House, Morgan County Court House, and the Ford County Jail.