Port Wing Brownstone

Megan Gustafson, Administrator/Reporter

For this month’s article, you will learn about Port Wing Brownstone. Brownstone outcroppings along Lake Superior’s shore provided building materials for massive structures and buildings all over the Midwest and Eastern United States. This spur of production lasted throughout the last half of the 19th century into the early 20th century. Perhaps the only reason brownstone has ceased in recent years is because of the development of more modern materials for building, like steel.

Brownstone is a very old sandstone, made up of quartz, iron oxide, feldspar, and silica. The iron oxide is why brownstone has a reddish tone to it. Since this material is rock and fossil free, it is solid but quite cutable because it is soft when first quarried. After exposure, it then hardens for years to come, which makes it perfect for houses, tall buildings, etc…(Roberts, 2011).

In the late 1800s, about 70 acres on Quarry Point was sold, and mining for rock began shortly after. The process for creating brownstone is a long one, involving drilling and cross cutting to pull the material out of the original rock. This property was sold to many different people and companies over the years, and eventually ceasing operation in 1929.

Stone from Port Wing was used in many famous buildings around the country, like in the Wisconsin building at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The brownstone was also used in William Jennings Bryan’s home in Lincoln, Nebraska, George Crosby’s home in Duluth, Minnesota, and the Martin Patterson Mansion in Superior, Wisconsin. One of the most interesting places the stone was used for construction is in the Department of Interior Building in Washington D.C. These examples are just a few well-known structures that Port Wing Brownstone was used. (Roberts, 2011)

Roberts, Melinda. “Wisconsin Historical Markers.” Wisconsin Historical Markers. 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 29 Oct. 2014. <http://wisconsinhistoricalmarkers.blogspot.com/p/home-page.html>.