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   from the issue of June 8, 2006

Booklet details story behind campus, Lincoln-area stone


Along the north side of the Platte River near Plattsmouth is a pit in the earth called the Gwyer Quarry. It contains a deposit of buff-colored limestone that supplied the rough-textured, irregular stone for Lincoln's old city hall, built in 1874 between Ninth and 10th streets.

The building is made of fusilinid limestone, which refers to fossil marine organisms that resemble grains of wheat. It comes from an area of old quarries in the South Bend Limestone of the Stanton Formation, giving the building a rugged, dignified look. Limestone from this and other quarries in southeastern Nebraska was used for many buildings in the area since before the turn of the last century.

These and other stories behind the uses of building stone in Lincoln, as well as detailed photos, are featured in "The Earth All Around Us," a 27-page walking tour of selected building stone in downtown Lincoln and UNL's City Campus.

The UNL School of Natural Resources has published the booklet as an urban field guide to the central city's building stone. It was written by emeritus professor Bill Wayne of the geosciences department and should have particular value for earth science instruction in the area.

"I started this as a mimeographed guide to building stone on City Campus for students in geology in the early 1970s," Wayne said. "I used it in a class called Geology in Man's Environment. It was expanded from time to time and was intended to be used by that class or any other in geology."

Other buildings featured include the Tyler House, built in 1890 at Eighth and D streets, across from Cooper Park, which uses much sandstone trim around red brick in an architectural style that mixes Romanesque and Victorian; the Phillips "castle," a Romanesque mansion of rose-colored sandstone at 19th and D streets; the Centerstone building, a commercial property at 12th and O streets on the roster of historical buildings that is made entirely of sandstone past the first story; and, of course, the Nebraska State Capitol building, made of Salem, or "Indiana," limestone.

It also chronicles much more modern uses of building stone, which is mostly facing now, not structural, he said.

Wayne started gathering photos for this work during his time in Indiana, where he grew up and where building stone, especially limestone, is quarried and used extensively. While working for the Indiana Geological Survey, he mapped part of the Wabash Valley, where stone was quarried to build part of the Erie Canal, and many local houses.

"I've maintained an interest in building stone most of my career," he explained. "When I came to UNL in the late '60s, I got interested in the history of the use of building stone in eastern Nebraska."

"The Earth All Around Us - Selected Building Stone in Lincoln, Nebraska: A Walking Tour" is available from the School of Natural Resources. Orders can be placed at 102 Nebraska Hall, calling 472-7569, or online at



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