Building Stones of America: Over 50 Years of the NIST Stone Test Wall.
Building Stones of America: Over 50 Years of the NIST
Stone Test Wall.
Stutzman, P. E.
Masonry Magazine, Vol. 43, No. 10, October 2004.
building stone; degradation; walls; weather effects;
durability; construction; weathering
In 1880, the Census Office and the National Museum in
Washington, D.C., conducted a study of building stones
of the United States and collected a set of reference
specimens from working quarries. The census that year
reported descriptions of producing quarries, commercial
building stones, and their use in construction across
the country. This collection of stones, now augmented
with the Centennial Collection of U.S. building stones
from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, as
well as building stones from other countries, has moved
around over the years, but still serves its purpose as a
stone test wall to study the effects of weathering.
Originally on display in the Smithsonian Institution, in
1942 the ASTM Committee C-18 on Building Stone decided
that a study of actual weathering on such a great
variety of stone would yield valuable information. The
committee developed a plan for using the stones to build
a test wall at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) as
a cooperative study with NBS. Subsequently, the test
wall was constructed in 1948 at the NBS site in
Washington, D.C., then eventually moved intact in 1977
to its present site at NBS, now the National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md.
Today, the wall provides a rare opportunity to study the
effects of weathering on different types of stones, with
the climatic conditions being the same for all stones.
It offers a comparative study of the durability of many
common building stones that have been used in commercial
and government buildings, as well as in monuments. Also,
the wall has served to preserve a valuable collection of
building stone and should be useful as a reference for
builders in identifying the kinds of stone that may be