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Firelands Quarries

Ron Davidson • Sep 23, 2013 at 3:00 PM

For those of you who missed my program at the library last week (you shouldn’t have missed it!), here is a little bit about one of the historically most significant industries in the region. Quarries have a long history here, particularly in Erie and Ottawa Counties – one that continues today. This history is reflected not only in the many quarry sites in the region, both active and abandoned, but in the multitude of local buildings and monuments constructed of the native limestone.

Let’s begin in Sandusky. It’s the biggest city in the Firelands region, with a densely-populated urban environment, but it has been home to multiple quarries. Sandusky is on a foundation of solid bedrock, which made for a convenient source of building material for early settlers. Some of the earliest quarries were most likely ad hoc operations for a specific construction project. One example of this was the construction of the Follett House in the 1830s. It was said that the stone used to build the house was quarried primarily from the lot across Adams Street, at what is now the Wade Dauch Memorial Garden. While we do not have documentary evidence to prove this story, it certainly fits with the likely practices of the time.

One of the earliest industrial quarries in Sandusky was opened by Ira T. Davis in 1864, at Sycamore Line and Hancock Street. That site expanded over the years and changed ownership, ultimately becoming one of the Wagner quarries. After spending some time as a dump site, much of that land became the Sandusky Plaza in the 1950s.

Ultimately, as the city grew, Sandusky became reserved primarily for traditional urban functions, and quarrying became confined to the less populated areas of the region. Among the long-lived, but now dormant quarries, were ones on Johnson’s Island, on Kelleys Island, and in Castalia – the site of the Castalia Quarry MetroPark. Quarrying on Kelleys Island began before 1830, and was a major industry on the island for more than a hundred years. The Castalia quarry opened in 1870, and was fully operational until its demise during the Great Depression; it briefly opened after World War II to provide materials for the construction of the Ohio Turnpike and other major construction projects, but closed permanently in 1965.

Of course, there are several quarries still in business today, including large operations at Marblehead and in Perkins Township, along Milan Road. Although carved stone is less popular as a building material than it was 150 years ago, the limestone (and gypsum, and sandstone to our east) quarried in our region is still used for many purposes, and continues to be a vital natural resource for the community.

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