News from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey
June 2022

Celebrating The Nation's Building Stone

From the steps of settlers’ cabins to the steeple of the National Cathedral, Indiana-quarried limestone is known nationwide as both a “workhorse of building stones” and a symbol of permanency. “You don’t put up a building with limestone to express anything but permanence,” said sculptor Dale Enochs in “Stories in Stone,” a book by David B. Williams which devotes a chapter to Bloomington’s stone industry. “The Salem (limestone) isn’t a screaming, sexy material,” Enochs said. “It has humility. I liken it to Indiana. It’s part of us.”

It is also “The Nation’s Building Stone,” trademarked. And because of the stone’s history interbedding with local history, June in Monroe and Lawrence counties is heralded as Limestone Month.

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey will celebrate on Saturday, June 4, with its first, free, family-friendly Limestone Month Festival. Learn more about that event here.

It’s Todd Schnatzmeyer’s job to celebrate Indiana limestone every day. He’s president of the Indiana Limestone Institute of America (ILIA), an agency which supports the limestone industry and promotes the advantages of using this stone in building projects.

Indiana limestone has been called Bedford Stone, Bloomington Stone, White River Stone, Bedford Marble, Gosport Stone, Indiana Oolitic Stone, Spergen Hill Limestone, and several others, but its geological name is Salem Limestone, after the Salem Limestone formation which stretches from Owen County southeast to Harrison County on the Ohio River.

The ILIA is headquartered in the limestone-clad geology and geological survey building, on the mostly-limestone IU Bloomington campus. There are a lot of reasons why it’s a popular and sought-after building material, Schnatzmeyer said: “its consistency, ease of fabrication, availability, and of course, as a natural stone, it has inherent fire resistance.”

Between 1835 and 1904, a series of major fires in major cities inspired new building codes and ushered in a limestone building boom. Many universities built in the late 1800s to mid-1900s—IU among them—chose limestone as canvases for Collegiate Gothic and Art Deco architecture.

Indiana limestone has been used structurally or decoratively on so many monuments and iconic buildings—Grand Central Station, Ellis Island, and the Empire State Building in New York City; The Pentagon and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; and 27 U.S. state capitol buildings among them—that it’s no wonder it’s known as The Nation's Building Stone. In fact, its prominence led to Indiana leaders being accused of favoritism by senators from other stone-producing states. A federal law passed in 1915 had required post offices having gross receipts between $60,000 and $800,000 to be faced with sandstone or limestone, leading to more than 750 Salem-skinned post offices nationwide, Williams wrote.


Summer programs at the Survey

Adults, families, and youth are invited to drop by the newly opened IGWS Learning Lab this summer to participate in free programming on select Mondays and Tuesdays.

Storytime with the Survey will be offered from 10 to 10:30 a.m. on Mondays June 13, June 27, July 18, Aug. 1, and Aug. 15. IGWS staff will read picture books connected to objects in the IGWS Education Collection and participants will be able to handle those objects. This event is recommended for families with children ages 18 months to 6 years.

• Visitors of all ages are welcome to drop in for an hour or so for GeoCreate between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesdays June 14, June 28, Aug. 2, and Aug. 16. Participants will be able to create artwork using a range of mediums inspired by the Learning Lab’s mineral, stone, fossil, and cave-related collections.

IGWS Outreach Coordinator Polly Sturgeon will restart the IU Bloomington limestone campus walking tours on select Friday and Saturday mornings in June, July, and August. Participants will be led along a 1-mile route to at least 19 buildings made with Salem Limestone to learn about carvings, architecture, and geologic details of the stone. See the flyer below for details. All tours begin at the Sample Gates; no registration is necessary.

Archived, but not forgotten

When researchers gather data—whether that’s rock and sediment cores, drill hole elevations and depths, photographs, or hand-jotted map notes—it isn’t swept away into a bin when the project is over and results are published. It’s preserved—as much of it as possible—to be used in future studies by that researcher or someone who’ll come decades later. How to efficiently organize and store all that data is the major, ongoing job facing members of the IGWS’s information services division; we plan to share more news later this summer when some materials arrive to help with this monumental task.

One example of data being preserved and made accessible for other purposes is the headstone collection that’s recently been uploaded into ResourceSpace, the IGWS’s digital asset management system. Over several years, IGWS researchers Richard Powell and Erik Kvale took hundreds of photos in 189 cemeteries in Indiana, two cemeteries in Illinois, and one in Ohio, mostly of headstones made of whetstone. A series of whetstone fact posters was published in 2004 and revised in 2009, and a StoryMap was published online in 2020, plus at least five other papers between 1998 and 2001. Those projects displayed many headstone photos, but not all of them. The new photo collection in ResourceSpace aggregates all of the IGWS’s known whetstone headstone photos—and some that are not whetstone—into one, open-access location.

“This collection contains a variety of interesting and beautiful headstone artifacts, many of which are in remote areas of Indiana, or from cemeteries likely little-known outside of their local area,” said Will Knauth, digital assets manager for the IGWS, who’s been populating the collection. “It’s an interesting aspect of Indiana’s history, natural resources, and cultural heritage.”

ResourceSpace is open to anyone who wants to view items in the IGWS digital collection, which grows every day. If you wish to download an item, it’s suggested that you create a free user account so that you’re able to access it directly instead of requesting access from a staff member, but an account is not otherwise required.

View the headstone collection on ResourceSpace here.

This whetstone headstone was for "Elizabeth, wife of Walter Wilkinson, who departed this life Oct. 29, 1846, aged 21 years." | IGWS file photo

Staff notes

• Research geologist Isaac Allred earned his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Kansas and attended the doctoral hooding ceremony on May 14. His dissertation was titled “Detrital Zircon U-Pb Fingerprinting of the Appalachian Signature: Early Pennsylvanian sediment routing from highlands to deep-sea fans and the persistence of recycled Appalachian-affiliated zircons.” Allred has worked at the IGWS since March 2021 and is currently on the team mapping the Bedford quad for STATEMAP. He is also the director of the IGWS project “Early Pennsylvanian Sediment Routing in the U.S. Eastern Interior,” has published in the journal Geosphere, and has a forthcoming article in the Journal of Sedimentary Research.

• IGWS Director Todd Thompson and research geologist Victoria Leffel attended the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) conference in Springfield, Illinois, May 10-11. It brought together emergency managers, geologists, public information officers, and others to aid in multi-state earthquake preparedness.

• Leffel attended the Purdue Geotechnical Society Workshop on May 6 titled “Unconventional Geotechnical Corrections.” One of Leffel’s future projects will be working on creating a landslide hazard map; the main presenter at this workshop was part of an INDOT research project in the ‘90s that dealt with correcting landslides with various engineering measures.

Ben Romlein, GIS developer, attended the National Geologic Map Database Digital Mapping Techniques Workshop May 22-25 in Rolla, Missouri.

Three new staff members have started careers at the IGWS in the past month.

Dana Bissey began working as a GIS analyst on May 16. She had served in a similar role for eight years with the IU Capital Planning and Facilities, Facility Operations, and Energy Management and Utilities departments, aiding the Bloomington campus and five regional campuses. She studied environmental science, then earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from IUPUI before working in Nevada with AmeriCorps and in South Carolina as a geophysical technician. Upon moving back home to Indiana, she earned a master’s certificate in GIS from IUPUI and has worked for IU ever since. Her first IGWS project will be to aid in the operational transition of IndianaMap to the Indiana Geographic Information Office.

Casey Jones started his new job as a GIS and cartographic analyst on June 1. He had been working in GIS for the Madison County Council of Governments, and before that, he was director of land management for a land trust in northern Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Manchester College, studying graphic design and photography, and a master's degree in environmental science from Taylor University. He'll be working to create GIS-informed maps for the IGWS that are both useful and attractive.

Kristen Wilkins’s first day as the IGWS digitization imaging specialist was May 27. She had been working in the Lilly Library at IU Bloomington creating digital images of manuscripts, books, and objects in the Lilly collections. She earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and art from the University of California Santa Cruz and a master’s of fine arts from California State University Fullerton. She worked briefly in web design, then taught art photography in California and Montana, and at Wabash College in Crawfordsville and the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. She believes strongly in giving the public easy access to public data, and enabling access to more IGWS items is what she'll be working on in her new job.

Isaac Allred snaps a photo after earning his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Kansas. | Submitted

Outreach efforts

• The spring plant and bake event at the IGWS raised almost $600 for the Indiana Geological Survey Graduate Research Fund. This semiannual activity is organized by research geologist Nancy Hasenmueller, carrying on an idea floated by the late paleontologist and stratigrapher Carl Rexroad around 2009. “He loved plants,” Hasenmueller remembered, “and he wanted to give them to people in the Survey.” So, a plant exchange was started, which eventually turned into a fundraiser that also offered baked goods. The spring plant event tends to include more garden plants; the fall event includes more houseplants—so that students can get them for their rooms—and landscaping plants, Hasenmueller said. The fall plant event is scheduled for the Tuesday after Labor Day, which, this year, is Sept. 6. The graduate research fund has been slowly building; when it hits its goal, a scholarship will be awarded to a graduate student anywhere in Indiana doing earth science research. To support the scholarship, visit the IU Foundation online and type “Indiana Geological Survey Graduate Research Fund” in the search bar.

• Research by IGWS scientists Maria Mastalerz and Agnieszka Drobniak was featured on an IU Research Impact podcast released May 23. The team has been looking into emissions and the safety of using wood pellets as grilling fuel. “As grilling increases in popularity, the researchers suggest checking for quality ingredients in wood pellets and wood chips to protect human health and the environment,” the podcast transcript reads. Listen to the 4-minute program at this link.

Matt Johnson, assistant director for information services, attended the Indiana Geographic Information Council Conference May 23-25 in Muncie. He gave a presentation on “Mapping at the Indiana Geological and Water Survey.”

• Thirty people graduated on May 24 from the Master Naturalist training program hosted at the IGWS’s Learning Lab. The 10-week course, covering such topics as glacial history and soils, people and natural resources, native vs. invasive species, backyard birding, and watersheds and water quality, was taught by IGWS staff members Polly Sturgeon, Todd Thompson, Henry Loope, and Ginger Davis, as well as representatives from Sycamore Land Trust, CanopyBloomington, the Indiana Native Plant Society, IndiGo Birding, the IU Biology Department, WildCare, and Cedar Valley Permaculture. The IGWS will offer another round of classes in spring 2023; registration will open in February.

• Research scientists Tracy Branam and Ginger Davis will attend the Indiana Water Resources Association Symposium in Brown County June 22-24. Davis will present on “The Future of Planning with Hydrostratigraphic Unit Maps for Indiana” and co-present on “Uplands Drinking Water: Formative research with stakeholders to support reliable, safe, and affordable water.” Branam will display two posters on the chemical analysis of water from perennial springs in Orange and Owen counties. That data was derived from a project funded by the IU Center for Rural Engagement, “Characterization of Perennial Springs in the Indiana Uplands.”

Contact us

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey, a longstanding institute of Indiana University, conducts research; surveys the state; collects and preserves geologic specimens and data; and disseminates information to contribute to the mitigation of geologic hazards and the wise stewardship of the energy, mineral, and water resources of Indiana.

• To join the monthly E-Geo News mailing list, please click here.

• To ask a question of IGWS staff or suggest an E-Geo News topic, email scliffo@iu.edu.