The quality of Indiana’s limestone is no secret, and bricks from our quarries have—
Yes, I said limestone.
That seems an odd thing to march out when humble bragging about a state, but it’s no odder than the orange groves of Florida or the hardwood of Michigan. If a state’s got a resource to brag about, I’d rather it be stone composed of crushed, fossilized marine life than a piece of fruit. Just saying.
Back to our limestone. In summation: it’s pretty awesome. Limestone’s grading relies on the purity of its content of calcium carbonate versus other minerals. The higher the content, the higher the quality, and the limestone deposits of Central and South Central Indiana consistently contain some of the highest quality limestone in the world (generally above 97%).
Without delving into a geology lesson, Indiana limestone (also called Bedford limestone or Salem limestone) owes its quality to the receding shores of a 500-million-years-old lake that deposited the shells of single-celled creatures. Essentially, our limestone is the remnants of an ancient, crushed reef. Time and pressure did the rest, resulting in massive deposits of limestone renowned for workability and strength.
Visit the historical Bedford, Indiana, the Limestone Capital of the World. Its quarries (and those of neighboring cities) have provided the limestone for many structures, such as the Pentagon and the National Cathedral. The Empire Quarry is by far the most famous. Its steep walls provided the stone slabs used to construct the Empire State Building.
Bedford’s reputation of quality limestone enamored its residents and, in the late 1970s, they hoped to turn it into a thriving destination for tourism. Planners decided to construct a replica limestone pyramid, one-fifth the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and a replica of the Great Wall of China. The US government liked the idea and handed over $500,000 for the project.
The city had enough time to put down a single layer of limestone bricks for the pyramid before the government changed its mind, revoked the funds and left one of Indiana’s strangest monuments: the Bedford Limestone Pyramid.
The site is on private property, and I can’t officially recommend you check it out. So, whatever you do, don’t drive 15 miles south of Bloomington, turn south on Old Highway 37 until you reach a metal fence near its dead end and then hop the fence on foot to see the sprawling one-layer pyramid.
Yeah, don’t do any of that.
Gradually, Indiana limestone became a niche building material, primarily because of the high cost involved in mining, shaping and transporting the stone. Acid rain also took its toll on limestone market, with industrial pollutants pitting tiny holes in the stone and gradually wearing it away.
Today, the largest limestone producer in the state, the Indiana Limestone Company, offers a variety of limestone products for construction or decoration. Even if you’re not in the market for limestone, consider browsing their website. They’ve got an excellent drone video of their property featured. Put it on full-screen, move your face closer to your device and get set to get queasy as its flies over the limestone abysses.