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Building Stones of America: Over 50 Years of the NIST Stone Test Wall.

pdf icon Building Stones of America: Over 50 Years of the NIST Stone Test Wall. (113 K)
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 locally available.