Casket Quarry | Duluth Crushed Stone Co.

I’ve brought up the subject of West Duluth’s old quarry at least twice before on PDD (“A Guy in an Orange Jacket Climbing the Ice at Casket Quarry in West Duluth” and “From the Photo Archive | Circa 1995″) and brought Adam Carr there last winter with Barrett Chase for a “January in Duluth” piece that Adam might still be planning to finish.

A recent posting of a 90-year-old newspaper clipping on the West Duluth Memories Facebook page inspired me to search for a little information on the Duluth Crushed Stone Co., since I’ve never really known much about exactly what went on at the ol’ quarry, other than obviously some company came and dug up some rock and hauled it out.

So I’ve gathered a little info and maybe I’ll add more here later. For starters, here’s that clipping, from the Oct. 2, 1922 Duluth Herald.

According to the 1943 book Mineral Resources of Minnesota, edited by William H. Emmons and Frank F. Grout, “the Duluth Crushed Stone Company quarried gabbro at Duluth for road stone, railroad ballast, concrete aggregate, rubble for retaining walls, and riprap (large fragments for piers, breakwaters, etc.).”

Oliver Bowles’ 1918 book The Structural and Ornamental Stones of Minnesota, provides a bit more detail.

The clip below, from the Jan. 20 edition of Cement and Engineering News, refers to a different quarry but provides a bit more info on Duluth Crushed Stone Co.

But the mother load for those who want to geek out on quarry details is the 1912 book Rock Drilling, with Particular Reference to Open Cut Excavation and Submarine Rock Removal, by Richard T. Dana and William Lawrence Saunders. And the whole damn book is embeddable.

Here are some highlights from the above-embedded book:

The Duluth Crushed Stone Company operates a quarry at the end of 57th Avenue West, in West Duluth. The rock is a hard bastard granite in its natural bed in the side of the rock hill that rises from Duluth Harbor and follows the shore of Lake Superior east, and the St. Louis River west from Duluth. In many places the rock outcrops, and above the present quarry, rock is to be seen on the surface where no stripping will be necessary. The maximum depth of stripping is in no place over 3′, except where faults occur, and the average depth is not more than 1′.

The condition of the rock varies greatly in different parts of the quarry, and also in the same part of the quarry as the face is worked back. In some places the rock is absolutely solid without a check or irregularity in structure other than is ordinarily found in this kind of rock, while elsewhere it will be badly cracked and full of seams, with its entire structure irregular and badly broken up. This latter condition exists especially in the west end of the quarry.

The product of the quarry is crushed stone in sizes from dust to 2.5″ and rubble of any size as ordered. The structure of the rock does not permit of its being taken out for dimension stone or of its being cut easily, although it could without doubt be worked into regular shapes if occasion arose. The stone company does not undertake to furnish such stone, however, and so makes no effort to quarry it.

Beside its regular output of crushed stone and crusher dust the quarry is at present filling two contracts for rubble. One of these is with the Great Northern Railroad, and calls for quarry run rubble up to 6″ size. This material is loaded into skips by hand and is raised by a locomotive crane and dumped into gondolas. The other contract is for furnishing quarry run rubble up to 10 tons size, the number and amount of blocks of the latter size being regulated by the demand of the purchasers of the stone. This stone is being used in the construction of a breakwater at the Superior Entry of the Duluth-Superior Harbor, and as the portion now being constructed is in shallow water the amount of 10-ton stones being shipped is about 50% of the total amount. The heavy stones are used for paving the surface of the breakwater.

ROCK DRILLING

At the present time the rock in the quarry is running so unevenly and is so seamy and broken up in its bed that it is extremely difficult to obtain the desired amount of 10-ton stones. For the rest of this contract nothing as small as a two-man stone is shipped, but only large blocks which are handled by the crane. All this material is loaded on cars by the crane, being chained and lifted.

It goes on and on.

7 Comments

Paul Lundgren

about 2 years ago

By the way, another thing that got me thinking about the quarry this month was a Duluth News Tribune story which noted that a graduate student in the University of Minnesota's College of Design spent the fall quarter creating an imaginary plan to turn the "abandoned granite quarry in West Duluth into a world-class ice-climbing destination and speed-skating oval." Fun and crazy.

Derek Montgomery

about 2 years ago

Thanks for the info Paul! As someone who moved here about six years ago, but now will be calling Duluth home for a long, long time, it's awesome to read these interesting stories about Duluth's history.

markryan

about 2 years ago

Paul, I've investigated this quarry several times -- the first as part of a field trip with the Geological Society of Minnesota (see photo). [img]http://www.perfectduluthday.com/wp-content/uploads/comments/Weiblen_Quarry_PAN.jpg[/img] An interesting side note: in later years (1970s and beyond) the rock from here was quarried and sold as what's called "Minnesota Lunar Simulant," because its composition is so similar to that of rocks brought back from the Moon during the Apollo missions. U of M geologist Dr. Paul Weiblen was involved with that industry -- I think the Japanese were very interested in it for whatever reason. I'm not sure if it's even still active. Anyway, here's a link to one of the articles where the quarry is mentioned in the abstract (as is often the case the whole article have to purchase): Dissolution of a lunar basalt simulant as affected by pH and organic anions I appreciate your relating the site's history. Thanks!

Loki

about 2 years ago

Interesting! This spot has been in a lot of conversations lately. A couple things. This is the focal point of Duluth ice climbing. Second point, this is not city of Duluth property but is St. Louis County tax-forfeited land.

DECk37

about 2 years ago

This is cool information, it's really neat to see that the railroad came up into it as well. They talk about a breakwater, but wasn't this the same quarry that supplied stone for the canal as well? Also, what is the smaller looking one back east a ways, by the Lake Superior Hiking trail? It's between First and Third streets west, in what's called central park. It sort of looks like a quarry, and there's some ruins off 1st that could be related. Google Map's new 45-degree view, (basically like Bing's Birdseye view but more updated), shows some tents set up, maybe homeless, or extremely adventurous people.

Paul Lundgren

about 2 years ago

I think you're referring to the quarry briefly mentioned in the post about Point of Rocks. In the early 1900s, the city crushed rock there for building materials. This is a photo from the top.

DECk37

about 2 years ago

Thanks for the info and post link! I tend to forget that the Point of Rocks is bigger than I think it is and usually just associate it with the part over near the bottom of Mesaba Avenue.

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