Paper No. 96-3
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM
THE SCHOONMAKER REEF (SILURIAN) OF WISCONSIN: AN EXAMPLE OF THE PRESERVATION OF HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT GEOLOGICAL SITES
The recognition and preservation of important sites in the history of geology has been limited in the United States. While parks have been established to preserve geologic scenery, relatively few have been created nor has recognition been given, for sites associated with major scientific discoveries and events. Many historic preservation programs commonly focus on buildings when addressing scientific subjects, instead of the geologic features that led to discoveries. Overlooked are numerous places that have had major roles in the development of important geological concepts, many of which disappear through time with little regard to their scientific or historical importance. To address some of these concerns, in the 1980’s, the National Park Service undertook a National Historic Landmarks Geology Theme Study as the second phase of its thematic study of the History of American Science. Under the direction of NPS historian Dr. Harry Butowsky, an attempt was made to identify a wide variety of sites including buildings and outcrops that had important roles in the history of a wide range of geologically related subjects including exploration, mining, earth science, and education. While for budgetary reasons, the study was never completed, it succeeded in documenting many worthwhile places. A prominent example of this effort is the Schoonmaker reef in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The Silurian rock exposures here were the first to be correctly identified as representing an ancient reef through the research of the prominent 19thcentury geologists and former GSA presidents as James Hall and Thomas Chamberlin. The successful designation of the reef as a National Historic Landmark in the History of Science program generated considerable local interest in the site by the City of Wauwatosa, from the mayor’s office to its historic preservation commission, along with the local Wauwatosa Historical Society and general public. As a result, the Schoonmaker reef site is being converted into an educational park. Local property owners have donated land for the park and a developer has named their adjacent property “The Reef “an otherwise unusual name in the Midwest. The success of the Schoonmaker Reef can provide an example for how the recognition and preservation of other small scale scientific sites can be undertaken.