Etched in stone
Editor’s?Note:?This article is part of a monthly series on the history of Webster City and Hamilton County, written by local historian, Nancy Kayser.
Use of Minnesota and Canadian stones has added a unique and attractive architectural aspect to several buildings in Webster City. While some stones were mined and then trucked to our area, others hitched a ride on the glaciers.
The Chamber of Commerce building at 628 Second Street is an outstanding example of the use of fieldstone in construction. Farmer’s National Bank built the native stone building in 1894 and the bank group has retained ownership since then.
According to the local newspapers, construction began in June of 1894 and was completed by late November.
The building was erected of native stones harvested from the surrounding area. Edwin Carpenter of Cedar Falls was the master stonemason for the project. He was charged with selecting, breaking and laying the stones.
A bane to area farmers, these common field stones were transported to Iowa by the glaciers some 12 to 14,000 years ago. According to the Iowa Geological and Water Survey, these igneous and metamorphic rocks originated in central Canada and Minnesota and are estimated to be 1.8 to 3.8 million years old.
The light orange to pink rocks in the Chamber building are most likely St. Cloud, Minnesota granite. The various gray stones are probably Morton Gneiss and Montevideo Gneiss from the Minnesota River Valley area.
Carpenter, the son of Vermont born parents, would have hauled the stones by horse-drawn wagons or stoneboats from open land around the city. The units could haul around two tons or more each trip.
Once on the building site, the stone mason would have used centuries old techniques to split and shape the large boulders to fit the design. A derrick with block and tackle would have hoisted the rock to position as the stonemason laid it into the structure.
The Webster City Tribune noted in September of 1894 the building would be three-feet higher than any other building in town. The crown of the building, also of native stone, was removed in 1951 to make way for the bank’s electric sign.
Kendall Young Park
Kendall Young Park on the north edge of the city also features many native stone shelters. The entrance arc and Kendall Young monument fixture were built in 1926 with local stone. Works Progress Administration (WPA) laborers built the stone pavilions and fireplaces with rocks collected in the area beginning in 1936.
The Park was a popular destination, especially for family reunions. Park officers estimated upwards of one thousand people used the grounds each Sunday. In the late 1930s, after the stone structures were completed, park caretakers reported usage at 60 to 80,000 people each season according to local news reports.
Stone quarried in Minnesota also details two other buildings in town.
Webster City’s City Hall anchors the southwest corner of Second and Superior Streets. The facility, dedicated June 7, 1970, was built by general contractor Peterson Construction.
Architectural plans called for a Mankato “Kato” stone edging around the windows and the flat slabs near the top of the building. The Kato stone, a dolomite from near Mankato, Minnesota, was cut to size and then glued by the quarry to specifications. Transported by truck to Webster City, the cream-colored stone window edging was set into place by a crane according to Gerald Peterson of Peterson Construction. Other masonry details were handled by masonry contractor, Marv Carpenter, also of Webster City.
In 1976 the Hamilton County Courthouse on the south end of Superior Street was built using brick, concrete and Cold Spring Opalescent stone. The black stone, which covers the lower level of the building, came from the quarries of the Cold Spring Granite Company of Cold Spring, Minnesota.
It is an intrusive igneous rock, similar to a granite. The central Minnesota quarry would have put the mined slabs through a crusher to produce an irregular, broken face stone which varies from four to six inches in depth and length of up to twenty-four inches.
The building design carries the Cold Spring Opalescent stone to the interior of the building where tiny metallic particles of mica within the stone give off a shimmer. The white showing in the black stone is likely quartz or feldspar.
There are also other buildings in our area featuring unique stone architecture. Look around see what geological treasures you can discover.