I love rocks. As a child I always had a rock collection. I loved visiting the rock and mineral shows at Washington Square Mall. I bought rocks on family trips and polished rocks in my own tumbler.
When the agenda for last weekend’s Indiana Landmarks board of directors’ retreat held in Bloomington, Ind., at the Indiana Memorial Union Biddle Hotel and Conference Center informed directors of Friday night’s “Limestone Adventure,” I was excited.
After a half-day of meetings, we boarded a bus to Woolery Stone Mill. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Woolery Stone Company began quarrying this site in 1930. Scenes from the 1979 movie “Breaking Away” were filmed here. (Filmed in Bloomington and about Bloomington, “Breaking Away” is a story about the “cutters” — boys with a limestone legacy — and “townies.”) The quarrying operations are closed today, and the mill is available for special events. We enjoyed a catered dinner, local beer, and we learned about the history of limestone in Indiana.
Indiana limestone exists in a swath varying in width from one to ten miles and stretching 30 miles long, from Stinesville to Bedford. The stone belt was formed about 300 million years ago, from the calcium carbonate deposits of decomposing marine animals at the bottom of the inland sea covering the area.
Even prior to Indiana’s admission to the Union in 1816, a light-colored, fine-grained native stone had been used by settlers for cabin foundations, door sills, milling burrs, and memorials. The first organized quarrying effort of record was established in 1827 in Southern Indiana near Stinesville.
Our home landscape features lots of Indiana rock. Native stone of all variations — some of my favorite is variegated limestone — creates paths through our yard that lead to benches crafted from irregularly cut stone and limestone barn foundations.