Boston: Where it All Started

I moved to Boston about a dozen years ago. My wife and I had been living in Moab so it was quite a shock to arrive in the Hub. Gone were the wonderful red rock canyons, wide open spaces, and 12,000 foot high mountain peaks. Instead, I found concrete canyons, urban density of almost 20,000 people per square mile (compared with less than 2 around Moab), and minimal topography. I was not happy until I discovered the mosaic of geology used to construct the city’s buildings: sandstone, granite, travertine, marble, puddingstone, and gneiss.


As I have now discovered, Boston, like most big cities, is built with a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. With a short walk you can find rocks ranging in age from 3.5 billion years old to less than 200,000 years old. There are rocks from every continent except Antarctica. Plus, builders often go to the effort of polishing the rocks, so it is even easier to see the wonderful structures, fossils, and minerals. There were many times I wish I had my rock hammer and a bottle of acid.

I bring this up because today in the Boston Globe there is an article of mine about the great rocks of Boston. Based on a timeline, the story highlights 13 buildings and their geologic and cultural stories. The editor and designer did a great job. I have only one regret, at this point it’s not on-line, or if it is I cannot find it, so if anyone out there sees it could you let me know how it looks.

4 thoughts on “Boston: Where it All Started”

  1. I enjoyed the article in the Globe on Sunday. For the most part it was very accurate, however, you left out a stone that comes from two quarries that are closest to Boston and are still in operation. Weymouth Granite has been taken from the area on the Weymouth-Hingham town line since Pilgrim times and has been commercially quarried continuously since 1814. It is still being quarried by Plymouth Quarries, Inc. and Bates Brothers Seamface Granite Co. It is in use in a church, university, or municipal building in almost every town and city in the Northeast from Washington DC to Chicago, and as far away as Aspen CO and Kapolei, HI. When Boston College could not obtain puddingstone to match it’s original buildings, it turned to Weymouth Granite and so most of the buildings on campus are of Weymouth Granite. In addition, most of Yale University, University of Michigan and St John’s University are built of Weymouth Granite and more buildings are constructed every year.
    Locally, in addition to BC, Weymouth Granite has been used on such buildings as the Church of the Redeemer and All Saints in Brookline, the former Arthur D Little Building in Cambridge and others.
    Thanks again for the article. If you’d like more information on Weymouth Granite, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

  2. Jon,
    Thanks for your note. Sounds like I will need to do some additional research on the Weymouth Granite.
    David

  3. David,
    My name is Adam Bickelman. I’m the communications director at MassDevelopment. We redeveloped 100 Cambridge Street. You don’t happen to have an electronic link to your Globe article? I’d love to post it on Twitter. Absolutely fascinating. Let me know. I’m available at abickelman@massdevelopment.com. Great article.

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