Port Wing Brown Stone

Photographed June 26, 2013
Port Wing, Bayfield County, Wisconsin
46.775221, -91.386561
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Port Wing Brown Stone
The familiar sandstone outcroppings along Lake Superior's shoreline provided a popular building materials for grand and massive structures all over the Midwest and Eastern United States throughout the last half of the Nineteenth and into the Twentieth Centuries. What spelled doom for the brownstone industry was the development of skyscraper and steel girder construction.
Brownstone is billion year old sandstone made up mostly of quartz, feldspar, iron oxide and silica. It is the iron oxide that gives it the reddish color. Fossil and pebble free, it has great strength and because it is quite soft when first quarried can be cut and carved for attractive architectural use. It hardens with exposure. The very best grade of brownstone is said to have come from the Port.
Quarrying activities around Port Wing began in 1889 when stone was cut in Section 25 T.50N-R.9W on land leased from Issac Wing. Shortly thereafter a quarry was opened on the Iron River just South of the Orienta  Townsite.
In 1895, Joseph, John and Ole Miller of Duluth purchased 68 acres of land on Quarry Point, land originally owned by Maggie McCardle. Their company, Lake Superior Brownstone, began operations later that same year. Stone was cut and barged across to Duluth for finishing.

At the Port Wing site, steam drills were used for boring holes in the rock. A steam powered channeler would make an 8 to 10 foot slice, after which three or four-foot chunks would be cut crosswise from the bed and hoisted out. The company operated one channeler, two gang saws and two derricks.
Miller Brothers sold to Portage Entry Quarries in April of 1903. By then the property had grown in size to 114 acres. Three years later it was again sold, this time to George Froney representing Port Wing Quarries Co. In 1909 Port Wing Quarries sold to Kettle River Quarries Company and they in turn sold to John A. Smith and William Penn of Minneapolis in 1921. George Froney continued as general manager under each new ownership for as long as the quarry stayed in business. It ceased operation in 1929.
Stone from Port Wing was used in the Wisconsin Building at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. It was also used in William Jennings Bryan's home in Lincoln, Nebraska; George Crosby's home in Duluth; and the Martin Patterson Mansion in Superior. The Department of Interior Building in Washington D.C. was constructed of Port Wing Brownstone. These are only a few examples of well-known structures in which our stone was used.
Locally, the basement floor of the Port Wing School, the foundation of the Lutheran Parsonage, and the O.T. Bagstad warehouse were constructed of Brownstone.
The marker is located on Highway 13, between Grand Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, Port Wing, Wisconsin 54865.

These markers are also at this location:

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