Celebrating Indiana's Limestone History
Limestone is more than just a type of rock—it’s the foundation for Monroe and Lawrence County’s legacies as builders of American history.
Monroe County is home to a 35 mile long, 10-mile wide corridor of Salem Limestone, formed long ago by an ancient inland sea. The thick, quality stone from our county has been dubbed the “nation’s building stone” and has been used to build 27 U.S. state capitols, the Pentagon, the Lincoln Memorial, and countless other iconic buildings.
The limestone industry in southern Indiana helped propel this incredible natural resource to national stardom. After the first commercial limestone quarry was opened by Richard Gilbert in 1827, limestone began to rise in popularity, exacerbated by railroad transport and the need for quality building materials to replace wooden structures.
Demand for limestone in the late 19th and early 20th century attracted immigrants from all over Europe to venture to Bloomington and Bedford for work, cutting in quarries and carving art out of the fine quality stone located in mills throughout Monroe and Lawrence County.
After World War II, demand for limestone dropped in favor of steel and glass architecture. However, the postwar era saw a renaissance of limestone use on college campuses, with Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Indiana University, and more seeking the material for grand stone buildings. Indiana limestone has become popular even more recently, recognized as a timeless and efficient building material throughout the United States.
Indiana limestone has been used for more than a building material. Artists continue to appreciate the beauty of Indiana limestone and the ease of carving with the material. Our limestone has built a rich historical inheritance that inspires generations of architects, artists, and workers all around the world to create something that will last for years to come.
Limestone Month was created in 2007 to celebrate the rich heritage of limestone in Lawrence and Monroe Counties. All throughout June, you’re invited to take part in tours through limestone quarries and architecturally notable places, witness the craft of limestone carving at workshops, browse extensive collections at exhibitions, and join in on many other festivities.