U.S. Geological Survey

Descriptions and Origins of Selected Principal Building Stones of Washington


Maryland - Seneca Creek, Montgomery County. Red, reddish - brown, and gray. Coarse - to fine-grained angular quartz; some fragments of feldspar and mica. Fine - grained. Durable building stone. Triassic age.
Example: Original Smithsonian Institution Building.

Virginia - Aquia Creek, Stafford County. Brown to light-gray. Rounded, coarse to fine grains of quartz. Cemented with silica and containing scattered pellets of clay as much as 1 inch in diameter. Cretaceous age.
Example: Crypt and Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building.


Alabama - Colbert County. Similar to Indiana limestone. Has large isolated shells and other fossils. Mississippian age.
Example: Interior gallery walls of the National Gallery of Art.

Indiana - Bedford, Lawrence County. Light tan buff to nearly white. Rounded grains of calcite. Shell fragments also present. Firm and compact. Mississippian age.
Example: Washington National Cathedral, Department of the Interior Building, and all Federal buildings in Federal Triangle along north side of Constitution Avenue from Department of Labor at 14th Street NW to Federal Trade Commission Building.


Connecticut - Stony Creek, New Haven County. Coarse - grained, with large pink feldspar crystals in a gray mass of smaller crystals. Precambrian age.
Example: Exterior of Commerce Department.

Massachusetts - Milford, Worcester County. Light pinkish to greenish gray, with spots of black biotite mica that may form bands. Medium to coarse textured. Precambrian age.
Example: Zero Milestone.

Minnesota - Redwood and Renville Counties. Greenish-gray mediu -grained biotite gneiss; pale-pink biotite granite or quartz diorite; and a granite gneiss with distinct banding, black knots of biotite, and large isolated feldspar crystals. Precambrian age.
Example: Fountains on the Ellipse at Constitution Avenue.

North Carolina - Mount Airy, Surry County. Very light gray. Medium textured. Biotite granite. Biotite is unequally distributed; some rock contains almost no biotite. Probably Paleozoic age.
Example: Arlington Memorial Bridge.

Vermont - Barre, Washington County. Gray to white. Medium to fine grained. Contains about 65 percent feldspar, 27 percent quartz, and 8 percent biotite mica. Ordovician age. Example: Steps to the west front of the Capitol.


Colorado - West Elk Mountains, Gunnison County. White with gray markings. Fine grained. Contains scattered grains of pyrite. Excellent building stone. Mississippian age.
Example: Exterior of the Lincoln Memorial.

Georgia - Pickens County. White, blotched with black and gray. Coarser grained than Vermont white marble. Called "White Cherokee marble." Precambrian age.
Example: East-central front of the Capitol.

Maryland - Texas and Cockeysville, Baltimore County. White to light gray. Medium to coarse textured. Precambrian age.
Example: Bottom 152 feet and upper 390 feet of the Washington Monument.

Massachusetts - Lee, Berkshire County. White to light gray. Medium fine textured. Ordovician age.
Example: Exterior of Senate and House wings of the Capitol.

Missouri - Carthage district, Jasper County. White to light gray with bluish-gray tint. Coarse grained. Some stylolites (wavy, thin, dark lines formed when minerals in the rock dissolve under pressure). Mississippian age.
Example: Interior of Commerce Department Building.

Tennessee - Knox and Blount Counties. Pink, light pink, and gray. Fine textured. Stylolites, known locally as crowfeet, in beds. Ordovician age.
Example: National Gallery of Art.

Tennessee - Hawkins County. Dark chocolate to red with white streaks and masses. Coarse. Has some fossils. Ordovician age.
Example: Stairways in the Senate and House wings of the Capitol, Tennessee Memorial Stone.

Vermont - Rutland County. Snowy white. Fine grained. Other types light-blue-gray and black with highly contorted stylolites. Ordovician age.
Example: Jefferson Memorial.


Introduction   ||   Washington's Geologic Setting   ||   Washington's Building Stones
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Building Stones of Washington Walking Tour   ||   About This Publication

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Last revised 1-14-99 (krw)