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Red Sandstone in Longmeadow

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

We live in a geologically very interesting area in western Massachusetts. The Connecticut River Valley is a rift valley, which means it was formed when two parts of the continental crust pulled apart. (see information below about our joint program with Storrs Library on Wednesday, October 28th). Longmeadow sandstone was formed from sediment carried from mountains to our east and washed into our valley at the time of the dinosaurs. The Connecticut Valley is a rich source of red sandstone, with distinctive colors and mineral makeup particular to different areas. Longmeadow was lucky to have some of the best quality stone. It's a relatively soft stone to work.

Many of you have seen the brownstone row houses in cities like Boston and New York. Did you know that much of the brownstone (red sandstone) came from Longmeadow? Locally, the stone was mostly used for foundations, lintels, steps, trim and gravestones. Two nearby exceptions are the East Longmeadow Town Hall, built in 1882, and the Clapp Memorial Library in Belchertown.

Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, St. Johnsbury, VT built 1890 from Longmeadow stone

It is estimated that at one time there were as many as 55 active quarries in town! Many of them were small outcroppings for local use.

Portion of 1870 Map of Longmeadow

Many workers employed in the quarries were Swedish, Italian, Irish, and French immigrants. It could be a dangerous business, as a Springfield Republican newspaper notice attested in 1889 "John Driscoll, who was badly injured at the Longmeadow quarries a few days ago, is dead."

Taylor Quarry, site of the current East Longmeadow DPW (George Patrick and Ox cart) Photo courtesy of East Longmeadow Historical Commission

Gravestones were usually made from stone near at hand--it was not easy to move heavy stone any great distances before railways were established. We had several very skilled gravestone carvers, or, as they often referred to themselves, sculptors. Most of the red sandstone gravestones in this area came from East Longmeadow quarries.

Hermon Newell 1774-1833

Abigail Williams, 1766

Stone working tools, Author's collection

Stone working tools, Author's collection

Contributed by Betsy McKee, Board Member, Longmeadow Historical Society

Originally published October 22, 2020

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